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Author Investigates Real-Life Inspiration for Fictional Char

时间:2011-04-06 00:57来源:互联网 提供网友:lu227706   字体: [ ]

Author Investigates Real-Life Inspiration for Fictional1 Charlie Chan


The fictional Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan was the subject of popular books and movies for many decades. In recent years, however, the character has been criticized as a stereotyped3 caricature of Asian-Americans.
Author Yunte Huang says that's not the case. He has explored the character and real-life policeman who inspired him in the book "Charlie Chan: The Untold4 Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous5 With American History."
Charlie Chan has been a familiar character to readers and film-goers, beginning in the 1920s. The globe-trotting detective solved crimes in more than 40 films through the 1940s, and with the advent6 of television, found a new audience in the 1950s and 1960s.
Huang, an English professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was born in China and discovered Charlie Chan through books by American author Earl Derr Biggers, who created the character.
"One day, I was at an estate sale in Buffalo7, New York, and I found these two Charlie Chan novels. At that point I thought I knew that he was a negative stereotype2 against Asians, but when I read the book," he says, "I was immediately hooked. And ever since then, I've been a fan of Charlie Chan."
Author Yunte Huang's 'Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous With American History,' explores the true-life inspiration for the fictional detective.
Huang believes Chan's broken English and unusual aphorisms8 - ostensibly ancient sayings - were part of his charm.
"Let me just quote a few if I may - 'Actions speak louder than French,' or 'Mind like parachute. Only function when open.' Charlie Chan always attributes these aphorisms to Confucius' oriental wisdom, but as we know, most of these kind of fortune cookie sayings, including fortune cookies today, are made in America."
As a fan of the books and films, Huang was surprised to learn that Charlie Chan was based on a real detective named Chang Apana, who was born to Chinese parents in Hawaii around 1871. Apana worked as a cowboy herding9 cattle, and in 1898, when Hawaii was annexed10 by the United States, joined the Honolulu police force.
"And he almost immediately became a local legend because as a former cowboy," says Huang, "he would walk the most dangerous beats in Chinatown carrying a bullwhip. He never carried a gun. He didn't need that."
Miriam Berkley
Author Yunte Huang
Biggers may have learned about Apana from Honolulu newspapers. His first Charlie Chan novel was published in 1925. The first film was released one year later. Apana died in 1933 as a local legend, his reputation enhanced by the exploits of his fictional counterpart.
But critics say the portrayal11 of Charlie Chan, with his broken English, is embarrassing for Asian-Americans. In early silent films, he was played by Asian actors, but later producers would cast Westerners in the part, first Warner Oland and later Sidney Toler. Chinese-American actors, including Keye Luke, who played Charlie's "Number One Son," were relegated12 to supporting roles.
But Huang isn't bothered by the casting of Western actors in the leading role.
"Growing up, for instance, in Chinese operatic culture, watching Chinese operas, cross-dressing, men playing women, or someone playing others, is taken for granted. It's almost a must. It's no fun doing yourself. So, coming from that kind of culture, I was quite comfortable, really, watching a white man playing an Asian character."
Huang notes that there is a history of what he calls "racial ventriloquism" in the United States, dating from early minstrel shows with white performers wearing black-face makeup13. The practice was the result of racial prejudice and restrictions14 on non-whites, but Huang tells Asian-Americans that Charlie Chan fought racial prejudice with quiet dignity, regardless of who played him. The character outwitted both criminals and those who looked down on him because of his race.
"And I'm trying to convince them, you cannot dismiss Charlie Chan," says Huang. "If you dismiss him, basically you are dismissing American culture and what is most interesting - troubling, sometimes - but fascinating."
For Huang, the fictional Charlie Chan is highly entertaining, while the real-life policeman, Chang Apana, is a Chinese-American success, whose story is worth telling.


1 fictional ckEx0     
  • The names of the shops are entirely fictional.那些商店的名字完全是虚构的。
  • The two authors represent the opposite poles of fictional genius.这两位作者代表了天才小说家两个极端。
2 stereotype rupwE     
  • He's my stereotype of a schoolteacher.他是我心目中的典型教师。
  • There's always been a stereotype about successful businessmen.人们对于成功商人一直都有一种固定印象。
3 stereotyped Dhqz9v     
  • There is a sameness about all these tales. They're so stereotyped -- all about talented scholars and lovely ladies. 这些书就是一套子,左不过是些才子佳人,最没趣儿。
  • He is the stereotyped monster of the horror films and the adventure books, and an obvious (though not perhaps strictly scientific) link with our ancestral past. 它们是恐怖电影和惊险小说中的老一套的怪物,并且与我们的祖先有着明显的(虽然可能没有科学的)联系。
4 untold ljhw1     
  • She has done untold damage to our chances.她给我们的机遇造成了不可估量的损害。
  • They suffered untold terrors in the dark and huddled together for comfort.他们遭受着黑暗中的难以言传的种种恐怖,因而只好挤在一堆互相壮胆。
5 rendezvous XBfzj     
  • She made the rendezvous with only minutes to spare.她还差几分钟时才来赴约。
  • I have a rendezvous with Peter at a restaurant on the harbour.我和彼得在海港的一个餐馆有个约会。
6 advent iKKyo     
  • Swallows come by groups at the advent of spring. 春天来临时燕子成群飞来。
  • The advent of the Euro will redefine Europe.欧元的出现将重新定义欧洲。
7 buffalo 1Sby4     
  • Asian buffalo isn't as wild as that of America's. 亚洲水牛比美洲水牛温顺些。
  • The boots are made of buffalo hide. 这双靴子是由水牛皮制成的。
8 aphorisms 5291cd1d01d630b01eaeb2f84166ab60     
格言,警句( aphorism的名词复数 )
  • He formulated trenchant aphorisms that caught their attention. 他阐述的鲜明格言引起了人们的注意。
  • The aphorisms started following like water as all the old cliches got dusted off. 一些陈词滥调象尘土一样扬起,一些格言警句象洪水一样到处泛滥。
9 herding herding     
  • The little boy is herding the cattle. 这个小男孩在放牛。
  • They have been herding cattle on the tableland for generations. 他们世世代代在这高原上放牧。
10 annexed ca83f28e6402c883ed613e9ee0580f48     
[法] 附加的,附属的
  • Germany annexed Austria in 1938. 1938年德国吞并了奥地利。
  • The outlying villages were formally annexed by the town last year. 那些偏远的村庄于去年正式被并入该镇。
11 portrayal IPlxy     
  • His novel is a vivid portrayal of life in a mining community.他的小说生动地描绘了矿区的生活。
  • The portrayal of the characters in the novel is lifelike.该书中的人物写得有血有肉。
12 relegated 2ddd0637a40869e0401ae326c3296bc3     
v.使降级( relegate的过去式和过去分词 );使降职;转移;把…归类
  • She was then relegated to the role of assistant. 随后她被降级做助手了。
  • I think that should be relegated to the garbage can of history. 我认为应该把它扔进历史的垃圾箱。 来自《现代汉英综合大词典》
13 makeup 4AXxO     
  • Those who failed the exam take a makeup exam.这次考试不及格的人必须参加补考。
  • Do you think her beauty could makeup for her stupidity?你认为她的美丽能弥补她的愚蠢吗?
14 restrictions 81e12dac658cfd4c590486dd6f7523cf     
约束( restriction的名词复数 ); 管制; 制约因素; 带限制性的条件(或规则)
  • I found the restrictions irksome. 我对那些限制感到很烦。
  • a snaggle of restrictions 杂乱无章的种种限制
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