Monday, May 15, 2017

Chu Ke-liang has passed


Famed comedian Chu Ke-liang dead at 70, of cancer. My friend Drew nailed it in a Facebook comment:
On one end he was the affirmation of the KMT colonialist stereotype of Taiwanese as vulgar, low class, silly, impish and absurd. He was the validation of Waisheng class supremacy, not unlike the way African Americans have been depicted as caricatures to reinforce White supremacy in classic American film--the minstrel. Zhu Ge-liang was the caricature of Taiwaneseness to satisfy the desires of a Waisheng elite.

On the other end, Zhu was loved by Taiwanese audiences for creating Taiwanese space in media at a time when the Waisheng aesthetic was still (and is still) the predominant image. He was, in a way, a rejection of that Waisheng aesthetic.

To complicate matters even more, Zhu's movie, David Loman 2 was criticized for lampooning indigenous culture in a similar manner in which Zhu himself lampooned Taiwanese.

This really brings into focus Taiwan's multiple layers of unresolved coloniality and ethnic representation.
Jenna Lynn Cody remarked that for many of us, Chu remains recognizable as a distinct and memorable individual and talent, unlike the parade of identical interchangeable pop stars....
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1 comment:

Cary Allen said...

I am no student of sociology. But during the time I lived in Taiwan ('89-'96) I thought he was funny, ridiculous, over the top, and very Taiwanese. He got me more interested in the language and the wordplay and attitude, for lack of a better word of the language and how it informed local culture.

His comedic style reminded me of Buddy Hackett, making fun of himself and the general idiocy of the human condition. But he didn't strike me as a self-hating Taiwanese or tool of the dominant culture any more than I thought Hackett was doing that to Jewish culture.

Again, I have not studied these things deeply, and perhaps I am blissfully unaware of subtext, but I saw him as a unique talent and a skilled performer, and not so much as a victim of typecasting in roles that demeaned Taiwanese culture. I'm saddened at his passing, and the gambling debt exile that took so many years of his career.