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Text Commentary

Response: Gender Creating Caricatures
by Madelyn Cory `

Danielle expands on the argument raised by Rachel S. Park of the Harvard Crimson that Wang employs generational not racial stereotypes in A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. Though the generational gap between Mr. Shi and the blonde woman is visible, gender is the vehicle for her caricaturization. 


Mr. Shi's timidity during the two-minute clip is centered around the female's "exposed" body. Not once do his eyes or body face the woman. Though she is talking about something of interest to him, her body is at the forefront of his and the viewer's brain. Her youthful demeanor and "sunny" disposition is not what creates the humorous discomfort in Mr. Shi. The sexualized female body drives his discomfort and awkwardness.


This female caricature is the source of comic relief, as many side female characters are in Wang's films (e.g. Smoke). Considering his reoccurring themes of difference, this female side character could serve a larger subversive critique or potentially fall into hegemonic representations.


On the other hand, when not looking at the scope of themes common in Wang's oeuvre, the blond woman can easily be perceived as an offensive stereotype. Young sexy blonde women dominate the wide representation of women in America. Within a mainstream context, this image has the potential to reinscribe dominant notions of gender difference. 


Within A Thousand Years of Good Prayer, as Danielle points out, the central narrative follows Mr. Shi's struggling relationship with his daughter. She explains that the generational gap is the main hurdle keeping them from a close relationship. While this is true, gender also is a hurdle. As amplified by the blonde woman at the pool, many differences and boundaries are set up by dominant notions of gender. Mr. Shi was not allowed to interact with the young woman - because, according to dominant patriarchal discourse, young women serve male sexual desires. These prevalent ideologies governing American society are a plausible source of conflict for Mr. Shi connecting with his daughter. 



This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
Mr. Shi meets a scientist by Wayne Wang (2007) In this sequence from director Wayne Wang's film A Thousand Years of Good Prayer (adapted from the work of Yiyun Li), Mr. Shi, a trained scientist who has come from China to visit his daughter in the United States, encounters a young white woman who also identifies as a scientist.