Daily Archives: February 14, 2014

Mr. Wong, Detective (HUM303)

You’ll recall that I mentioned in class that there is a history of the Asian detective in US cinema, one that includes fictional characters such as Mr. Moto, Charlie Chan, and Mr. Wong. All of these figures were played by white actors in a form of “racial masquerade” that has deep roots in US culture. Here is the first film in the Mr. Wong series– Mr. Wong, Detective— starring Boris Karloff of Frankenstein fame. If you’re interested in the cultural politics of Hollywood representations of Asians and Asian Americans you can consult The Slanted Screen (2006), a great documentary on the subject, or Robert Lee’s seminal study Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture (1999).

Slavery and the Making of [US] America (HUM455)

For those interested, I found a PBS documentary on slavery in the British Colonies and the United States. The first episode is interesting because it demonstrates that initially at least “the color line” was not operative in the way that it would become. For the most part indentured or “transported” whites and enslaved Blacks worked and lived in bondage together. The primary difference, of course, was that white prisoners and indentures were not subject to the principle of partus sequitur ventrum– i.e., that “the child shall follow the condition of the mother”.

Fatale (HUM415)

Next week we’ll be discussing Jean-Patrick Manchette’s Fatale, a nasty little neo-polar that presents us with a murderous female protagonist who may be “a cold-hearted grifter or the soul of modern capitalism.” Manchette is often quoted as describing crime fiction as the “great moral literature of our time” and in this sense perhaps his art can be said to operate according to the principle of anamorphosis invoked by Zizek in the clip we watched on Thursday. If his true purpose is to critique capitalist culture, he undertakes this project by engaging with the popular (and often conservative) genre of the crime novel. More to the point Manchette, a “post-68er,” draws from the arsenal of Situationist techniques, detournement in particular. Fatale, then, as a “situationist noir”, is an act of subversion. Reading it with this in mind will be illuminating.

Finally, remember to THINK about

1) the differences between disciplinary society and the society of control (Deleuze) and

2) pastiche and schizophrenia as cultural symptoms of “consumer capitalism” (Jameson).