Flower Drum Song was a benchmark in the the Golden Age of Hollywood grandeur and musical beauty — and it was very racist by 2023 standards. We unpacked this Ro with stand-up comedian, actress, activist, and blazer of all trails Margaret Cho (Fire Island, Good Trouble, Hacks, Flight Attendant).
Cho and Dino-Ray Ramos talk at length about the Rodgers and Hammerstein movie 1961 musical based on the 1958 Broadway musical on — which was based on 1957 novel of the same name by the Chinese American author Chin Yang Lee.
The Oscar-nominated film gave us memorable performances including “I Enjoy Being A Girl” by the legend Nancy Kwan — but also a lot of blatant, heavy handed, gong-banging Orientalism. The Asian representation in this film is remarkable and a watershed moment for the Asian American diaspora in 1961 Hollywood as it was a majority Asian cast… it also has a scene where an Asian woman’s teeth is inspected to make sure she would make a good wife.
Cho admits that this is one of her favorite movies but also realizes its many problems. In this episode, we examine the Flower Drum Song and how it may be one of the most critical moments in cinematic history with problems that the Asian American diaspora are still facing in the 21st century.
Problematic Fave is presented by DIASPORA and is created, hosted and produced by Dino-Ray Ramos. The series is also produced by Sanjay Sharma of Marginal MediaWorks and edited by Brian Aguilar.
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