missabnormal: (Memoirs)
[personal profile] missabnormal
In which Cho-Cho-San is disowned.

So, as you remember from the previous chapter, Cho-Cho-San was reluctant about Pinkerton not allowing her family to visit her, so he'd given the option of converting to Christianity. The family had held a conference of sorts, and they've all agreed that it's unsatisfactory.

Pinkerton's response is to mock them, telling the spokesman that he looks "exactly like a lacquered tragedy mask [Pinkerton has] hanging over his desk". Pinkerton also gets the family to drink liquor and smoke Western tobacco, "either of which operations was certain to make a Japanese very ill". Again, this is very imperialist in nature, the way Pinkerton treats Cho-Cho-San's family. That night, Cho-Cho-San is disowned by her family after the final conference, with Pinkerton acting indifferent to the situation. 

This is very different from the opera. In Puccini's opera, Cio-Cio-San secretly converts to Christianity by her own will and choice. Pinkerton didn't even expect her to do so. Cio-Cio-San gets disowned on her wedding day after her uncle, a Bhikku monk simply called the Bonze (term for a Japanese or Chinese monk), curses Cio-Cio-San for converting. In addition, Pinkerton is shocked by this and comforts her after her family leaves.

Pinkerton tells Cho-Cho-San that he "did the very best [he] could for [her]", also referring to her as his "little moon-goddess". He tells her that they were "proof against [his] best wine and tobacco". He tells her that she is no longer a back number, which is a term that refers to a person who is old-fashioned. Instead, she is "up-to-date".

Cho-Cho-San asks, "'I egspeg I ought be sawry?" (I expect I ought to be sorry?), to which Pinkerton asks why. So she explains that it's because everyone is outcasting her and they think that she is "mos' bes' wicked in all Japan". And of course, to further the white saviour narrative, other native people are demonized in order to make it seem that the woman of colour has no choice but to be with the white man.

However, Cho-Cho-San laughs and "[throws] herself like a child upon him", before saying that she's not sorry and that she's "mos' bes' happy female woman in Japan-- mebby in that whole worl'". The chapter ends with Pinkerton humouring her by agreeing.

Again, this is a classic example of the infantilization of East Asian women by portraying them as childish, innocent, and dumbing them down, which intersects with fetishizing East Asian women as submissive and shy, yet kinky sex goddesses at the same time. Just look up 'Asian women' on google. There are dating websites catered exclusively for white men interested in dating Asian women only. Some of these men believe that Asian women will obey them and not challenge their views like, say, white women. These dating websites treat Asian women as commodities for men who are focused only on how the Asian woman can sexually please him.

There are still issues of Asian mail-order brides marrying white men who are most likely twice their age, because they see Asian women as childlike and submissive. There is so much to this stereotype that it has very negative repercussions. There have been sex crimes committed against East Asian women, and in Japan, actual geishas suffer from rape and sexual assault by male tourists, especially white male tourists.

In regards to the opera, the famous long love duet between Pinkerton and Cio-Cio-san starts in this chapter. It starts with 'Bimba, bimba, non piangere' ('Sweetheart, sweetheart, do not weep'), when Pinkerton comforts Cio-Cio-San, before continuing into 'Viene la sera' ('Night is falling'), which is when Pinkerton watches as his new wife is prepared for her wedding night by her servant Suzuki, moving into 'Bimba dagli occhi...' ('Sweetheart, with eyes...'), when Pinkerton admires Cio-Cio-San and they confess their love, before finally concluding with 'Vogliatemi bene' ('Love me, please'). 

What's notable about the last duet is that Cio-Cio-San also has that childlike characteristic, especially in these words from the libretto: 

'Vogliatemi bene, un bene piccolino,
un bene da bambino
quale a me si conviene.
Noi siamo gente avvezza
alle piccole cose,
umili e silenziose,
ad una tenerezza
sfiorante e pur profonda
come il ciel, come l'onda del mare.'

This translates to:

'Love me with a little love,
a child-like love,
the kind that suits me.
Love me, please...
We are a people used to small,
modest, quiet things,
to a tenderness gently caressing,
yet vast as the sky
and as the waves of the sea.'

Notice how this is fairly similar to Long's story: the childlike descriptors, the so-called 'delicate' nature of Asian women, and the intersection of infantilization and sexualization. It's even furthered by Pinkerton's lines that come next:

'Dammi ch'io baci
le tue mani care,
mia Butterfly!
Come t'han ben nomata
tenue farfalla...'

This translates to:

'Give me your dear hands
and let me kiss them!
My Butterfly!
How aptly you were named,
fragile butterfly!'

Again, she is referred to as being 'fragile', highlighting the stereotype that all Asian women are petite, exotic, and delicate, and who are enamoured with the white man immediately. This is also known as the China Doll stereotype, and is prevalent not just in the opera, but in various movies, TV shows, and literature. Also known as 'geisha girl' or 'lotus blossom', this stereotype is also evident in the musical Miss Saigon, and in various films. In addition, while they sexualize Asian women, Asian men are emasculated, as it seems that white people cannot accept an Asian man's sexuality. 

Films that portray the degrading China Doll stereotype include:

Sayonara (1957)- While this was one of the few older movies to portray interracial relationships in a positive light, it still upholds the China Doll stereotype. Marlon Brando plays the son of a U.S. Army general stationed at Itami Air Force Base who falls in love with a Japanese entertainer played by Miiko Taka.

The World of Suzie Wong (1960)- This is a famous film, starring William Holden as an American architect who moves to Hong Kong to try and make a living as a painter. He falls in love with a Chinese woman named Mee Ling, who turns out to be a prostitute that goes by the name of Suzie Wong. Nancy Kwan plays the role of Suzie Wong.

The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956)- Glenn Ford plays a captain of occupation forces in Okinawa, tasked with Americanizing a Japanese village, and he falls in love with a geisha played by Machiko Kyou.

Also, most of these romances are between a white American military officer and an Asian local woman. This also created the trope known as Asian Babymama, when white men knock up Asian women while stationed there. More of this trope will be discussed later on. If you are interested in hearing the long love duet from Madama Butterfly, here are the videos in order. And with that, I'll see you in the next chapter.

Bimba, bimba, non piangere (Cio-Cio-San: Renata Tebaldi/Pinkerton: Carlo Bergonzi)

Viene la sera (Cio-Cio-San: Leontyne Price/Pinkerton: Richard Tucker)

Bimba dagli occhi (Cio-Cio-San: Hui He/Pinkerton: Roberto Alagna)

Vogliatemi bene (Cio-Cio-San: Angela Gheorghiu/Pinkerton: Roberto Alagna)

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