11.5 Notes on The Mask of Fu Manchu and Avatar The Last Airbender Links

As promised, here are my notes on The Mask of Fu Manchu. Hopefully we can use the film to have a nuanced and fruitful discussion, and not just a heated condemnation of it. I’ve organized it only very idly.

  •  British think the artifacts belong to them
  • Torture overtones, Railway Man
  • “Can’t let a Chinaman beat me”
  • “一起” “快D” in awful Cantonese
  • Exoticism of Asian Women
  • All speaking roles are played by whites
    • Occasional Cantonese, usually gibberish
    • Boris Karloff
  • Mixing of cultures
    • Thai, Cantonese => Mongol?
  • Barbarians/Savages cowed by gunfire Pocahontas
    • Do all the hard labour, but the White man discovers the treasure
    • Shirtless. In Mongolia. Wat.
    • “Will we ever understand these Eastern races?”
  • Eastern Mysticism Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Tomb legends dismissed, though Khan sword power not?
  • Tells us about society’s view of the world -> The Power of Film
  • Power structures
    • Blacks at the very very bottom
      • Use as vessel for poison
      • Not even a cunning enemy, simply ornamentation or slave
      • One quickly switches sides to the whites
    • Women very subjugated to men
      • Hysterical, emotional, untrustworthy
      • Weak
      • Passively accepting fate, while men struggle
    • Heteronormative
  • Strange mix of authenticity and exoticism.
    • Self deprecating culture
    • 茉莉花
    • guy
  • East vs. the World
    • Why Genghis Khan?
  • Eroticism
    • Homoerotic scenes (loincloths, lingering shots on male form)
    • Orgasmic shrieks of Asian girl over White man’s pain
    • Masturbation images of horde
    • White men can dominate Asian women
      • Asian women drawn irresistibly to White Men
    • White women as the bargaining object used to signify power
      • White woman must be kept safe
      • “Take their women”
      • Clutched at when passed through the crowd, but never touched.
      • White woman as the untouchable sole provenance of white men
      • Asian woman’s use by father as bargaining token laughed off
    • Which kinds of inter-racial relationships allowed
    • White men may dally with Asian women, but will always return to their “own” women
  • Asians as cunning but cowardly
    • Three times doctor from Western Universities
    • Images behind doors, spies, attacking from behind
      • Westerners going out to face head on without guile
    • Greedy and swayed by small amount of gold (as opposed to tortured and un turnable)
      • No whites
    • “Christian arrogance”
      • conflation of culture and religion (and race and language)
        • “our gods”
      • Proclamations in the name of the “British Government”
    • “Hideous Yellow Monster”
  • Faceless Asian hordes “Yellow Menace” defeated by two white men
  • “There will be other Fu Manchus”
  • Bumbling servant at end.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an American TV series on Nickelodeon. It was/is animated in Korea, with American voice actors. There are three “books” (seasons) of the original series (which we did not watch). You can watch them here:




Avatar: The Legend of Korra is the sequal series, with four “books” planned. Three have been released, and the fourth is being released now. You can watch them here:





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