Criminalization/Assimilation (March 2019) by Philippa Gates traces how Classical Hollywood films constructed America’s image of Chinese Americans from their criminalization as unwanted immigrants to their eventual acceptance when assimilated citizens, exploiting both America’s yellow peril fears about Chinese immigration and its fascination with Chinatowns. Philippa Gates examines Hollywood’s responses to social issues in Chinatown communities, primarily immigration, racism, drug trafficking, and prostitution, as well as the impact of industry factors including the Production Code and star system on the treatment of those subjects. Looking at over 200 films, Gates reveals the variety of racial representations within American film in the first half of the twentieth century and brings to light not only lost and forgotten films but also the contributions of Asian American actors whose presence onscreen offered important alternatives to Hollywood’s yellowface fabrications of Chinese identity and a resistance to Hollywood’s Orientalist narratives.
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What the critics are saying….
“Philippa Gates takes us on an engrossing journey through the Chinatown streets of Hollywood’s imagination in her comprehensive study of the ambivalent depiction of Chinese people and places on American screens. Her superlative book provides essential reading for scholars, students, and concerned readers who need to understand this history fully to critique the images and ideas that continue to shape today’s cultural landscape.”
–Gina Marchetti, author of Citing China: Politics, Postmodernism, and World Cinema
“Meticulously researched and laudably comprehensive, Criminalization/Assimilationexplores Chinatown’s place in the lexicon of early Hollywood films. This is a unique and important contribution to film studies and Asian American studies—a highly satisfying read!”
–Karla Rae Fuller, author of Hollywood Goes Oriental: CaucAsian Performance in American Film