Some time ago, the U.S. Mint announced the “25-cent American Women’s Commemorative Coin Project”, which aims to commemorate outstanding women in various fields. Among the 5 coins issued in 2022, 5 women are commemorated, including the first American in Hollywood. Chinese actress Anna May Wong. On the back of George Washington’s portrait, Anna May Wong’s iconic bangs, willow eyebrows, and slender fingers are engraved impressively. This coin with a circulation of over 100 million brought the Chinese-American actress who was popular in Hollywood in the last century back to the public eye.
Huang Liushuang was the first Chinese-American actress to venture into Hollywood, and she was also an idol admired by artist Andy Warhol. However, she became the target of public criticism under the trend of the Chinese row in the United States…
Huang Liushuang’s life is full of legends, and time has never forgotten her An elegant and independent image, her biography “Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend” was published at the same time as her 100th birthday, and this year coincides with her 100th anniversary since her debut. Best to commemorate.
A hundred years ago, the anti-Chinese atmosphere in Hollywood was raging. Although Liu Shuang grew up in the United States, her Chinese identity and her oriental image on the screen have always been controversial. In the writer’s writing, she was degraded as a dragon girl and a butterfly. American law restricted her freedom of marriage, and the film company only left her with leftover roles. However, Anna May Wong in life is by no means a weak woman, and she is not willing to be manipulated , has sued the company and the media. In the era of profound racial oppression, she was exposed to cultural conflicts between East and West, faced unfair treatment and ubiquitous discrimination, broke through racial and political obstacles, and left more than 60 works in her acting career for nearly half a century. beyond reach.
Whether in the role or in reality, Huang Liushuang is always looking for the intersection of Chinese and Western cultures. Even though European and American culture is popular, Huang Liushuang deliberately wears Chinese cheongsam in public and carefully designs her hairstyle to show her oriental culture. As Hanlan Hsieh, a Chinese-American female writer and social activist, said, the typical image of Anna May Wong on the screen naturally evolved into a classic character decades later – Suzie Wong.
White Mask: The Laundryman’s Daughter Nobody on the Set
From “Red Lantern” which was a walk-on role to “The Sea Is Gone” as the leading role, all of Huang Liushuang’s characters are saddled with a lonely fate, either committing suicide or being abused, and they always end in tragedy. When she laughs, the joy on her face belongs to the character, but when she cries, the tears she shed are saved by herself. In the eyes of the tribe, she debuted in filming at the age of 14, a filial daughter in the laundry, and the mainstay of earning money to support the family. However, the umbrella of the family is not secure, and there is also a gap between Huang Liushuang and her parents, siblings. She was ostracized by her family when nationalists saw her as a Hollywood puppet, a comically sexy diva. Huang Liushuang has been puzzled for a long time. It was not until she took the opportunity of filming to see the filthy Chinatown in the eyes of Westerners that she suddenly realized that the complex emotions of mutual resentment and mutual sympathy among the bottom of the society across races are really hard to express.
The short story “Unknown Woman” written by Chinese-American female writer Tang Tingting tells the oppression and restraint of women by the ethical order of feudal society in China, as well as their courage to pursue freedom and independence. The “unknown women” are those “unknown men” played by Huang Liushuang in the movie, and the driving force behind them is the racial discrimination against Chinese in the West and the patriarchal concept in Chinese culture. Traditional women are required to obey the “Three Obediences and Four Virtues”. In the movie “New Women”, Wei Ming committed suicide under the public opinion that “people’s words are terrible”, which also implies the tragic ending of Ruan Lingyu’s unbearable career and marriage. Her straightforward personality makes her often dismiss onlookers with self-deprecation.
When the film giant MGM intends to adapt author Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “The Great Earth” into a movie, Anna May Wong sensed that her moment of glory was coming. In the novel, the heroine Alan’s private collection of jewelry inadvertently promotes her husband’s extramarital affair. Pearl Buck vividly portrays the self-sacrificing and submissive personality of Chinese women, and this kind of role is precisely what Anna May Wong is most comfortable with. When she was ready, however, MGM cast German actress Luis Reiner on the grounds that she was Asian. Missing Alan was extremely disappointing to Huang Liushuang. She tried to appeal for it, but it was useless. In her opinion, the company chose not a real Chinese, but a “MGM-style Chinese” – regarded as Alien, inferior and manipulated yellow people.
Anna May Wong has become accustomed to playing racially biased characters, and it is not easy to win the approval of the circle. Philosopher Walter Benjamin called her “a flower bud in a cup of tea, gradually blooming, full of moonlight, with no vulgar fragrance”. The playwright David Henry Hwang borrowed the tone of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” in “Mr. Huang Liushuang wrote it into the drama. Among the many supporters, Andy Warhol especially admired her, and even made a special collage artwork “Crazy Gilded Slipper” to pay tribute. These extremely curved shoes are somewhat similar to the small feet of women with bound feet, exuding the dark atmosphere of Chinese feudal system. Although Huang Liushuang escaped the bad luck of foot binding, she couldn’t escape Hollywood’s prejudice: people of yellow race are not qualified to play with white actors. She was puzzled, “I’m tired of the roles I have to play, why the Chinese people on the screen are almost always the villains in the movies, and such cruel villains – murderous, treacherous, like snakes in the grass. We have a much older civilization than the West, why don’t they ever show that on screen?”
Yellow skin: Died a thousand times, love is in vain
Edward Said, a representative of post-colonial critical theory, told us in “Orientalism” that Westerners continue to shape the “other” argument that the East is inferior to the West, and the result is that the East is made into an image of eternal backwardness. A speck of dust falling on everyone’s head is like a mountain. Racial discrimination, cultural hegemony and doubts about nationalism are barriers that Anna May Wong cannot overcome in her life. Amid irreconcilable cultural clashes, the ‘Chinese doll’ has made pitiful ‘dying’ her knack as her intimate photo with Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl sparks controversy Countless, homosexuals make a big fuss about the ambiguous relationship between the three. In Susan Sontag’s aesthetic concepts, the Camp complex (Susan Sontag said that Camp is a form of aestheticism) is inextricably linked with homosexual aesthetics, and it also stems from this , homosexuals and camp lovers regard Anna May Wong’s classic charm and exoticism as a fashion.
In the showbiz where nightlife is rampant, Anna May Wong never drifts with the crowd, and has a clear understanding of herself, “I was born and raised in an Eastern-style world, but the Western-style world fills every moment of my life.” As the third-generation Chinese born on the West Coast of the United States, Anna May Wong is deeply attached to her homeland. Before the Anti-Japanese War, she embarked on the only trip in her life to find her roots. Frustrated in Hollywood, she thought that she would be ignored when she returned to Congress. Unexpectedly, the ambassador to the United States Gu Weijun and his wife, writer Lin Yutang, Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang, actress Hu Die and other celebrities greeted her. Made her feel at home. However, there are also voices of abuse and accusations, and she was even blocked for a time. When some media asked her why she acted in a movie abroad that discredited the image of Chinese people, her witty answer made the questioner unable to refute: “It is natural for a Chinese to play a Chinese.” It should be, this is the opportunity for the Chinese to defend themselves!”
In the article “Chinese People Are Misunderstood”, Huang Liushuang talked about the Chinese people she knew: kind-hearted, loving life. When she heard about the atrocities committed by the Japanese invaders, she immediately auctioned off her jewelry and gowns to aid in the war, and starred in the anti-Japanese films “Myanmar Bomb” and “Ms. Chongqing”, and donated all her remuneration to the China United Relief Society. During Song Meiling’s visit to the United States to promote the anti-Japanese war, she invited local celebrities from all walks of life, except for Huang Liushuang. Soong Meiling, who represents the Chinese elite, showed malicious indifference towards Huang Liushuang, which also affected the attitude of the United States towards her, causing Huang Liushuang’s career in her middle and later years to be like a stagnant pool.
It is no exaggeration to say that actors of Chinese descent have never stepped out of the “shadow” of Anna May Wong. To this day, the stereotype of Chinese characters in the Hollywood showbiz is still continuing a centuries-old tradition. Whether it is Zhou Caiqin, the first Chinese “007” girl who played opposite Sean Connery in the movie “Thunder Valley”, or Lu, who played an ill-fated widow in the movie “Mountain Road” with James Stewart, Yan, Chen Chong and Wu Junmei in “The Last Emperor”, and Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li in “Memoirs of a Geisha”, no matter how brilliant they are, they are walking on the old road of Huang Liushuang’s marginalization in Hollywood.