The Oriental Obscene is a sophisticated analysis of Americans' reactions to visual representations of the Vietnam War, such as the photograph of the "napalm girl," news footage of the Tet Offensive, and feature films from The Deer Hunter to Rambo: First Blood Part II. Sylvia Shin Huey Chong combines psychoanalytic and film theories with U.S. cultural history to explain what she terms the oriental obscene: racialized fantasies that Americans derived largely from images of Asians as the perpetrators or victims of extreme violence. Chong contends that these fantasies helped Americans to process the trauma of the Vietnam War, as well as the growth of the Asian American population after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the postwar immigration of Southeast Asian refugees. The oriental obscene animated a wide range of political narratives, not only the movements for and against the war, but causes as diverse as the Black Power movement, law-and-order conservatism, second-wave feminism, and the nascent Asian American movement. During the Vietnam era, pictures of Asian bodies were used to make sense of race, violence, and America's identity at home and abroad.
Sylvia Shin Huey Chong is Associate Professor of Film and Asian American Studies in the English Department and the Program in American Studies at the University of Virginia.
List of Illustrations vii Notes on Terminology, Proper Names, and Film Titles ix Acknowledgments xi Introduction. Specters of Vietnam 1 1. Bringing the War Home: Spectacles of Violence and Rebellion in the American 1968 33 2. Reporting the War: Ethical Crises of Action in the Movement-Image of Vietnam 75 3. Restaging the War: Fantasizing Defeat in Hollywood's Vietnam 127 4. Kung Fu Fighting: Pacifying and Mastering the Martial Body 173 5. Being Bruce Lee: Death and the Limits of the Movement-Image of Martial Arts 209 Conclusion. Returning to 'Nam: The Vietnam Veteran's Orientalized Body 249 Notes 283 Bibliography 325 Index 353