i messed up my camera lol
ay i tried a new style with my eyeliner
Anna May Wong catapulted to international fame in 1924, at the age of 19, when she appeared in the Hollywood megaproduction The Thief of Baghdad in a scandalously skimpy exotic costume with Douglas Fairbanks menacingly poking a sword at her bare back. She called herself “the woman of a thousand deaths” because her onscreen characters — prostitutes, dragon ladies, jilted lovers — inevitably died. These were the kinds of concessions to racism, misogyny, and colonialism which Wong had to make in order to flourish in Hollywood; so she made them, and she certainly flourished.
Her story is (fairly) well-known, but Bill Moyers does as good a job retelling it as I’ve seen, in this fifth part of our series. Wong occupied an in-between cultural-historical space whose internal tensions could not possibly be reconciled. Whites were happy to view Wong as a mesmerizing symbol of the Orient (Eric Maschwitz wrote the pop standard "These Foolish Things" about her), while Chinese folks were often torn about what she represented: some lauded her groundbreaking success, others decried the racist depictions she appeared to serve. She never married; her chances at finding a (Chinese American) match in her high-flying showbiz world were nil; she had flings with (white) producers and leading men, but obviously none could last. Wong’s life is often viewed through the lens of tragedy; yet perhaps this is yet another slight against a woman who forcefully, fearlessly pushed her way into the top tier of American glamour and used not only her body but her mind and her voice to shine an unprecedented light on the Chinese American experience.