If you read my Livejournal then you already heard this story (I need to learn to pace how I share my stories/turn them into comics). This was the scene when I went to the Regal Entertainment theater in Union Square to see “Kung Fu Hustle” (which was excellent by the way). Someone had taken the time to set up stands with scenes from the movie complete with painted Chinese characters and some banners that hung around different parts of the theater.

Next to the line to get in was one of those guys you see all over Chinatown, Times Square and any other tourist area that paint your name with some kind of design. The woman taking care of the line handing out the cards sounded so excited that they had this special treat for the Kung Fu Hustle screening. It’s just so odd to me because anyone who’s lived in New York for just a few weeks know that these guys are everywhere and they clearly aren’t reflective of some deep Chinese tradition. I often wonder where the school is where these guys are taught how to paint these name things. I can see a big classroom full of people learning to paint the exact same things and then given an assigned area of Manhattan.

I find it funny that people feel so obligated to really play up Chinese stuff when given the opportunity. Kung Fu Hustle is a great movie, but it’s also tremendously commercial, but because it’s Chinese it’s kind of exotic so that means that it’s treated with a kind of reverence that equally commercial foreign films might not be.

Another thing I find funny are the ExploreChinatown.com ads that you see in the subway talking about the rich history of Chinatown with its temples and antiques that you can go there to see. Looking at the photos there reminds me of photos from an NYU pamphlet where every single picture is centered around Washington Square Park. My view of Chinatown is really dirty streets with small crowded sidewalks, weird smells, bootleg anime, cheap DVDs and horribly touristy gift stores.

Chinatown is so driven towards tourists that any attempts to play up its culture just make me laugh. Maybe if you’re idea of being immersed in the culture means going to a restaurant where they don’t give you chopsticks because you’re white, then knock yourself out. Chinatown is at its most commercial during Christmas when all the policemen are at home which means ten times the amount of people selling fake Rolex watches and knock off Louis Vuitton bags are on the street.


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