Friday, October 3, 2014

October 3, 2014



October 3, 2014

Throughout my life, I have been fond of the Charlie Chan film series and the Flash Gordon serials as well.  One of the things that I picked up from my father’s generation is the love of the adventurer who faces the deadly Orient.  That far-off culture that is wise and smart (Charlie Chan) and ruthlessly evil as well (Ming the Merciless and Fu Manchu).   As a child one is approached by the things he sees on the massive (cinema) and small (TV) screen.  It is not just one angle, but the fact that my entire culture is based on a fantasy of some sort.  When I was a child, evilness came from the Orient.  I used to play on the streets of San Francisco Chinatown, thinking of myself as Flash Gordon battling the aliens that were invading Earth - which was basically, from my perspective, a very white planet at the time.


What is fascinating is that the actor Charles Middleton (Ming) and Warner Oland (Charlie Chan) were white. Yet both played a character from the Orient.  At the time, even in my childhood, I knew that these actors were non-asian, but it never bothered or broke the fantasy for me.  I was living in a world that was totally one-dimensional.  Even though my parents knew and were friends of people who were otherwise not white, I still felt like I was in a white world, and that was the only world that existed.  I never even question it.



The only TV show I watched as a child was the Mickey Mouse Fan Club.  I was fascinated with the show because I felt that the kids on the show were like me.  White. I wouldn’t have been upset if an Asian or black child would be on the show, but the fact that the issue never came up is an interesting way to examine that world.  Children from all over the world probably belong to the Mickey Mouse Club, but what does that mean?  But even that, the kids on the show were exotic to me.  It was white, but it was a weird “white” to me.  I clearly didn’t belong to that culture.  My “culture” was to adopt characters that I was fond of and pretend to be that person, as I marched up and down Grand Avenue Chinatown lost in my fantasy of chasing dragons and monsters - mostly who were produced in the mysterious Orient.  Yet, there was something sinister about the Mickey Mouse Club, but I could never put my finger on it.   For one, the theme song written by Jimmie Dodd, who can be seen as the auteur of the Mickey Club clan.   Probably the first song that I have ever sung to myself: and I would also sing along with Jimmie at the end of the show as well.  The lyrics are:

Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me?
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Hey there, Hi there, Ho there! You're as welcome as can be!
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Mickey Mouse! (Donald Duck!)
Mickey Mouse! (Donald Duck!)
Forever let us hold our banners high,
High, high, high!
Come along and sing a song and join the jamboree!
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Mickey Mouse Club!
Mickey Mouse Club!
We'll have fun
We'll meet new faces
We'll do things and we'll go places
All around the world we're marching...

Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me?
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Hey there, Hi there, Ho there! You're as welcome as can be!
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Mickey Mouse! (Donald Duck!)
Mickey Mouse! (Donald Duck!)
Forever let us hold our banners high
High, high, high!
Come along and sing the song and join the jamboree!
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Yeah Mickey!
Yeah Mickey!
Yeah Mickey Mouse Club!

Spoken:
Now Mouseketeers
There's one thing we want you
Always to remember

Come along and sing our song
and join our family

M-I-C
K-E-Y
M-O-U-S-E

Through the years we'll all
Be friends
Wherever we may be
M-I-C
K-E-Y
M-O-U-S-E

Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
Forever let us hold our
Banner high

Now it's time to say goodbye
To all our company

M-I-C
Spoken:
See you real soon
K-E-Y
Spoken:
Why? Because we like you!
M-O-U-S-E




Jimmie was in charge of the club, and he was a role model for the kids on and off the screen.  Not only was he like that on the show, but also the cast was invited to his house for backyard barbecues and sing-alongs.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my love for the Orient actually made me aware of another world than the one that was projected into our house.  There are many levels of illusion, and this is only one.  As a child I founded something quite creepy about Jimmie Dodd and his Mouse theme song.  I didn’t know why, but over a short period of time, I realized that Ming the Merciless actually meant more to me than the Mickey Mouse Club.  It didn’t damage me, but I realize that there was a whole world out there, and I became interested in knowing where Charlie Chan and Ming came from.  Totally fictional characters, I do know that, but I was curious in how they came to be in my culture.   Over time, I realized that I wasn’t the focus of the world’s attention.  That I was just pretending to be Flash Gordon, which in fact, I much preferred Ming.  It is amazing to think that the “American” culture can bring such great geniuses like Eddie Cochran, yet one would define themselves into a world that was made up of “white culture.” Not saying that it’s bad, but actually kind of evil when you think of it.  And with that in mind I realized that I am part of an immoral culture that doesn’t even know why it is doing what it does.  To this day, we tend to see the other world as truly “other, ” when in fact we’re projecting that image to suit our purposes either by our stupidity or naiveness.   As Eddie would say “,that’s really something.”


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