Ever wonder what it's like to watch grainy 1920s silent porn in a room full of strangers? Well, when accompanied by Professor of Asian American Studies (UC Santa Barbara) Celine Parreñas Shimizu’s accessible (and often hilarious) analysis of racialized sexual imagery and the various expressions of sexuality through performance, it's actually not that awkward. This past Saturday at a SFIAAFF panel, Parreñas Shimizu gave a breakdown of her book The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene (Duke University Press, 2007) in which she is “arguing for a more nuanced approach to the mysterious mix of pleasure, pain, and power in performances of sexuality.” She emphasized the need to move beyond binaries when it comes to Asian/American females in cinema, that they cannot be labeled as strictly “good” or “bad” women, especially if the bad label is slapped on women that want to express themselves sexually in ways that ruffle conventional society’s feathers. The discussion was accompanied by rare film clips: scenes of Anna May Wong in a silent film, an experimental film by an Asian American female artist, and vintage pornography, the latter from the archives of the Kinsey Institute, the motherland of American sexuality studies at Indiana University. She also looked at three famous Asian American actresses (Anna May Wong, The World of Suzie Wong’s Nancy Kwan, and Lucy Liu) from different eras and their varying approaches to addressing the casting limitations of Asians in Hollywood, as well as the well-known Asian American porn stars Asia Carrera and Annabel Chong as they transitioned from smart model minorities to women explicitly asserting their sexuality. Pornography is a huge part of Parreñas Shimizu’s research, from the obscure homemade “stag” films to gonzo pornography in addition to documentary work on prostitution and the sex tourism industry in Southeast Asia. If you missed this excellent panel you can still check out Parreñas Shimizu’s book, available now. Or at the very least, rent some Asian porn with your buddies and discuss.
This blog entry is graciously sponsored by Toyota Matrix, check out their website devoted to the best in Asian American film.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!