The Year of the Yao

April 15, 2006, [MD]

Update: I removed the inline-link to the trailer, since it didn’t look nice in Windows browsers. Quicktime.

I came across this documentary on Yao Ming, the Chinese NBA player that has made, and found it quite interesting. I knew that Yao Ming was an important role model to Chinese in the US and in China who feel that Chinese males are often depicted as emasculated and not masculine (and short!), but I did not know much more (not being crazy about any sports probably didn’t help).

The movie tells the tale of Yao Ming’s first arrival in the US, playing for the Houston Rockets, lacking English skills and having a difficult time adjusting. The second protagonist is Colin Pine, the white guy who almost went to law school before he landed the gig of becoming Yao Ming’s personal interpreter, even moving in with him and his family for the first half year. The movie focuses a lot on the interaction between the two of them, and I found it fascinating, as you don’t often see white guys speaking Chinese on film, and here is one doing it on CNN live during press conferences and what not. It’s interesting that they chose to hire him, and not a Chinese-American who spoke both Chinese and English as their native language - you would think it would be easy to find one - and I am wondering if it was a conscious choice, that Colin would be better at the role as a cultural interpreter. But that is an interesting statement, given that they could have hired an Asian who had lived all their life in the US…

I also found the different repercussions of Yao Ming’s “Chinese-ness” interesting - in NBA he represents something rather novel, and so there were racial slurs by Shaquille O’Neal, lion dancing and Chinese acrobatics in the stadium before a match… How does this represent the culture that Yao Ming actually grew up in - I can only imagine if I were a famous basketball player from Norway, and every time I went to play a match, they would have tradition Norwegian dancers playing the fiddle and dancing in the stadium. I would not exactly feel “at home”…


Stian Håklev April 15, 2006 Toronto, Canada
comments powered by Disqus