chapter  5
16 Pages

Decentring Orientalist and Ocker masculinities in Australia

For most of the twentieth century, Chinese men inhabited a negative persona in the West. And it was no wonder: after the First Opium War (1839-42), the Qing Empire went into a continuous downward spiral that was not arrested until recent decades. Where the Chinese were once considered cultured and refi ned, this perception gave way to murky images of depravity, drugs and pagan barbarism. As indicated earlier, Fu Manchu was the most infl uential and popular written text to project such an image and this evil character was given more exposure and further concrete manifestation by many fi lms in the early part of the century. The American novelist Earl Derr Biggers (1884-1933) created a contrasting Chinaman image across the Atlantic in his Charlie Chan stories. This character was also the subject of numerous movies that made his name a household word. Rather than being a devious mastermind, Chan was meant to be amusing and likeable. Yet he is, in the words of Gloria Chun, ‘devoid of any assertiveness and sexuality … [and] self-effacing to a fault’ (2000, p. 19).