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Perspective of Orientalism

Instead of having intergroup contact with the Vietnamese to gain a greater understanding of their land and culture, the film provides us with an ethnocentric, Western perception of both that provides no insight or expansion of knowledge about them. As Said writes in Culture and Imperialism when he is discussing Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, on which Apocalypse Now is based, “For if we cannot truly understand someone else’s experience and if we must therefore depend upon the assertive authority of the sort of power that Kurtz wields as a white man in the jungle or that Marlow, another white man, wields as narrator, there is no use looking for other,” (24). Charlie is portrayed as savage and not quite a noble one throughout the film. As Lieutenant Carlsen tells Captain Willard, “You’re in the asshole of the world, Captain!” (Coppola 1979). Derogatory labels are applied to Vietnamese through the film as well. As Colonel Kilgore maintains when using one strategy, “It scares the shit out of the slopes” in reference to the different eye shape of Vietnamese compared to Westerners.

Flower Drum Song portrays the struggles and difficulties of Chinese living in America in San Francisco. While we are privy to an Americanized Asian family, we still see they are surrounded by ignorance and prejudice with respect to their culture and being. In Culture and Imperialism, Said maintains that studying the relationship between the “West and its dominated cultural ‘others’ is not just a way of understanding an unequal relationship between unequal interlocutors, but also a point of entry into studying the formation and meaning of Western cultural practices themselves,” (191). We see in Flower Drum Song that one of these cultural practices is forced acculturation of “others” into American culture. If “other” cultures do not heed such coercion, they are often perceived as an enemy or against American values and ide...

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Perspective of Orientalism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:42, August 19, 2017, from
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