CBC's Dragon Boys… Body count and community impact
was one of CBC's most hyped new shows for January 2007. Because
it dealt with drugs, gang violence and prostitution in the Chinese
communities of Vancouver and Richmond, it broached sensitive
issues. Cultural consultants were brought in, but did it help or
hinder the show?
Magazine gives a behind the scenes look at the development of the
script with input from the Chinese-Canadian communities from Toronto
and Vancouver. It also explains the development of the “community
consultants” roles that writer/editor Jim Wong-Chu and film maker
Colleen Leung took on. Check out Crime and Controversy: The Story behind the Dragon Boy by Nancy Han.
My friend David Wong writes his critique: ‘Body parts in plastic bags’ + hongcouver = Dragon Boys for his blog Ugly Chinese Canadian.
David gives an interesting view with regards to tying in the screen
violence to actual events that happened in Vancouver.
Here are my views that were originally written as a comment to his article:
It’s so easy to blame the dominant mainstream cultural stereotypes,
and the politically correct cultural consultants… The true fact is that
there are so few stories and characters that are Chinese-Canadian, that
anything that comes out goes under the microscope, gets anal-yzed like
pork entrails, and is criticized for generalizing/mis-representing the
When Kwoi writes that Dragon Boys is like an Asian version of Fast
and Furious – we also have to look around and say “Where is the Asian
version of Corner Gas?” Look at all the shows about about white
mainstream society, and there is no possibility that you will assume
that Causcasians are obsessed with killing people (CSI, Bones, Cold Case,
Crossing Jordon), or crime (Sopranos, Vegas, Without a Trace, 24, NCIS,
Law & Order, Prison Break).
Did Ang Lee need cultural consultants when he directed “Brokeback Mountain” or “The Hulk?”
Dragon Boys really had nothing to do with Chinese Canadian history.
It was more about Chinese language immigrant issues. And it is rare to
find the recent immigrants concerned with Chinese Canadian
multigenerational history, or the multigenerational CBCers concerned
with new immigrant issues such as prostitution, gangs or crime – unless
it makes the entire “so-called Chinese community.”
It was interesting to see that the Dragon Boys had pretty blonde
girlfriends, that Asian brothers had conflicts,
Chinese people took advantage of society or even tried to fit in. Yes
the stereotypes of Asian gang members, prostitutes and drug dealers were
all there – BUT they were fully developed characters that you could
know, like and even (gasp!) care about – instead of secondary
superficial undeveloped characters. Is this progress?
Having been a consultant for the CBC performance special Gung Haggis
Fat Choy, and the upcoming CBC Generations documentary on Rev. Chan
family and descendants (Feb broadcast date?) – I can say that without
my insight and comments – things would get missed, be inaccurate, and
run the risk of steotypes and generalizations.
It’s great that White-Canadians like Ian Weir want to write stories
that involve the Chinese-Canadian community – but let’s also have more
Chinese-Canadians given the opportunity to tell their stories too! We
need a balance and we need a spectrum of stories and view points.
BTW – I saw “Little Mosque on the Prairie” last night – and I LOVED it!!!
Why can’t we have a story about Chinese-Canadians like that?