Sunday, February 10, 2008

i bet they were really good at math, too

Call me a killjoy, as I'm sure some will, but I have a hard time figuring out how the illustrations in this book, published in 1938, seen here at my neighborhood Barnes and Noble, could not be construed as racist.

Now, given that the book is only rendered in two colors of ink, those two colors being yellow and black, perhaps I will choose to overlook the choice of coloring in the skin tone. And given the fact that the brothers are identical and therefore interchangable is a pretty salient point of the story, I will choose to overlook the obvious "all Asians look alike" joke too. However, as my friendly neighborhood Barnes and Noble associate informed me afterwards that I was "not allowed to take pictures in the store" (real rule, or just a petty execution of token authority? Who can say? But I was cowed nonetheless) I'm not able to show you the page where the local magistrate, enraged by the cleverness of the five brothers, is depicted in squinty-eyed and buck-toothed rage, thick glasses balanced on his puffed chipmunk cheeks.

I mean, the story is interesting and all, attempted beheadings aside, but does no one find it odd that this book has not gone the way of Chinese Cherry and those Abercrombie and Fitch t-shirts, and at least been re-released with updated illustrations? I mean, maybe it's just me, but somehow I don't think so.

Above, a "Chinaman moustache," actually available for sale at Wardrobe Costumes online. Wow. For real. Personally, I prefer my Chinese people to be portrayed as gun-toting gamblers or temple-residing vampire wranglers.