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Deconstructing Grace Lee

The Grace Lee Project was a far more satisfying film about a woman's search for herself than our previous foray into the topic (the Angela Shelton Project). There were many differences between the two films, but most salient for this viewer was the organic way that the story was conveyed in Grace Lee, rather than watching Shelton seemingly stretch the story in order to have some conclusion. In other words, Grace Lee decided to take the time to listen, fete out the differences, and find the commonality where it existed, rather than trying to push the idea of commonality onto her interviewees (like someone trying to push a square peg through a round hole).

As to how Grace Lee (the filmmaker) deconstructed the stereotype of Asian-American women, I think this film both affirmed (on the surface) and blew away the stereotype. On her journey, Grace Lee found many women who share her name who do, on a surface level, fit the stereotype. Many were the petite, quiet achievers the stereotype boasts. So, if one were to stop examining the film on a superficial level, one could say that the film confirms the stereotype.

BUT, stereotypes are nothing more than surface generalizations -- so general (like a horoscope) that it can be moulded to fit around just about anybody. In searching for the other Grace Lees, filmmaker Grace Lee dug deeper, listening to the individual stories, finding many differences among her interviewees -- even amongst those who otherwise fit the Asian-American woman stereotype. She found a 17 year-old artist with a very non-traditional sense of humor and an 80+ year-old civil rights activist. If one stopped looking at the surface level, then both of these women might fit into the stereotype, but if one just digs a little deeper, one finds the glaring individuality that makes these women unique.

So, what filmmaker Grace Lee is saying about Grace Lees is that while many fit the stereotype, there are many differences just below the surface, and that each are beautiful, special, and unique, despite the common name. This general statement, and an overall feeling of sisterhood with her fellow Grace Lees about how each has gone through their own journey to find their individuality (and thus the commonality of their journeys) is what filmmaker Grace Lee (and the audience) brings home. We are all unique individuals -- just like everybody else. :-)