March 3, 2008

Grace Lees share some things, but not all.

Before her trip, Grace Lee positions herself in opposition to a mass of indistinguishable Grace Lees. She sets out looking for an explanation of why they seem so similar, and to figure out if they really are, or what they have in common. She ends up showing us segments of the story of what it means to be an Asian American woman.

Director Grace Lee doesn't show us a sea of Grace Lees that are all the same, but she does bring them together as tellers of one larger narrative. They all struggle with the same stereotypes and with similar pressures from their peers, culture, and family. But the director Grace Lee makes a departure from old models of the common experience of women (such as the one seen in Searching for Angela Shelton), by highlighting individuality and difference within the female Asian American experience.

What she brings back, I suppose, is a sense community with other Asian American women, and also a renewed confidence in the individuality of these women and in the ability to reject the stereotype.

Grace Lee

First of all, I preferred this movie much more than the Angela Shelton one. Because the Grace Lee movie doesn't just focus on Grace Lee, the filmmaker herself. This movie isn't like the previous one where all she says is this happened to me and just cries about it.

Grace Lee movie is great in a way that it doesn't focus on how a person is because of their name. This movie shows that you are not what your name describes but rather what you do and what you believe in. This movie is her journey in finding the different characteristics of Asian women that has the name Grace Lee, which is very common. Grace Lee beliefs are that the majority of the Grace Lee's are naiive, quiet, shy, asian, and very passive. However, through her journey she finds out that may be majority of them are like this, but they are like this for a choice and there are others Grace Lee who are wild, brave, and active. Like the Korean Lesbian activisit and that old lady who is a black activist movement. It is not only just Grace Lee's journey but also a journey where we find out that many sterotypes that are being used on asian american aren't always true.

The Grace Lee Project

Grace Lee began her project with a notion that a vast majority of Asian Americans (chosen via the common name Grace Lee) are all so very unfortunately alike. Through Grace Lee's journey, both in digital and physical respects, she seeks to find out if there is any universal truth to to these uncanny similarities.

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Grace Lee Grace Lee!

There are many reasons why people do the things they do when it comes to exploring the world around them and the people they are surrounded by. This Grace Lee project was the end result of a woman who was confident enough about herself that she could go out and see who else is out there and how life has effected them. She chose the name Grace Lee as it was her own and found out many positive and negative things. First, she found out that the majority of them were Asian, which didn't surprise her, and that there were so many stereotypes about them because of their race, examples being that they are smart, quiet, and nice. She found out that because of all these stereotypes that many of them happened to fit in, many of them were overlooked as unique people. She went out to find all these Graces to prove that many f them are unique and different, but at the same time she found out that many of them are the same. Through their similarities she could relate to them, but I think she was more interested in their differences and how they shaped each woman. There were a couple that stood out of the crowd, but to her dismay (I think she might've been a little disheartened) most of them were very similar to each other. Either way, she learned that stereotypes can be true to some extent, but not all the time. Everybody is different in either big ways or little ways and its those differences that set us apart in big groups of similarities. I think she was happy with her results as they were close to what she expected. This was a very interesting movie and it was a nice change compared to the one before it when all we heard about was one woman's search. This Grace Lee focused less on herself and more on everyone else, and I think that made a difference when it comes to the public and classroom response.

Who is Grace Lee?

Grace Lee uses her road trip to acknowledge the similiarities about many of the Grace Lee's but also to highlight their differences. She "didn't want to be interchangable". She first saught for proof that they weren't "super nice asians". She felt left out, as if she wasn't in this "sorority of super asians" but along the way she came to realize just how different the Grace Lees were. Though there were some common threads, each of them was an individual. Many of them had lived and grown up under this oppresive steriotype of perfection and even though it led some of them to stress (even one to burning up part of the school). Most of them realized the importance of developing their own identitiy outside of their Grace Lee construct. She realizes on her trip that they are all individuals, whether it is the Grace Lee Activist, Grace Lee Dark Art Specialist, or even the Grace Lee Pastor's wife. Though they maintain some of their "Grace Lee Characteristics" they have learned to be more than that. Llike Gollum they are "like two characters in one."

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Grace Lee

Grace Lee takes an unusual approach to finding the other Grace Lees. She puts up a website that allows them to come to her. I think this is a really important part of her journey to note, because she wasn't forcing herself on anyone; every conversation she had was completely voluntary. It really helped shape her story. She was less focused on the road getting her places. She started off saying that all Grace Lees were the same: nice, intelligent, and quiet. They also seemed to be forgetable. Grace Lee sets out to discover why she seems to be the "anti-Grace Lee" in this situation. However, the story becomes less and less about her with every other Grace Lee that she meets. I think that when she is done with her journey, she comes home with a better sense of Grace Lees all around the world. She realizes that she has met some very genuine women, and what sets the Grace Lees apart is their stories. Everyone has a different story, and the Grace Lees are not exceptions to this. They all have histories, families, and friends-- none of them are the same person.

Grace Lees Everywhere

Grace Lee set out on the road to find more Grace Lees and learn about them. She wanted to do this because she felt that she was just an ordinary individual. She began talking to individuals about the Grace Lees that they knew. The overlying theme on all of the Grace Lees that people knew where that Grace Lee was a quiet, studious girl, who played the piano or violin. These stereotypes represent not just Grace Lee but all the Asian-Americans out there. Grace knows that there has to be something spectacular about one of these women so she keeps searching. She meets some of the Grace Lees and hears their stories. It turns out that she discovers amazing things about these women. Yes its true that many of them indeed were brought up to play the piano or were extremely intelligent, but these women were so much more. The led lives that made them unique and were not just another Grace Lee

Grace Lee

As the filmmaker Grace Lee travels throughout The Grace Lee Project, she is determined to prove that not all women named Grace Lee (and by extension all Asian-American women) are the same, despite the 3.5 years of piano lessons and all the other coincidental similarities. Lee wants to deconstruct the stereotype of the Asian American woman--quiet, intelligent, nice, etc--and finds it frustrating that many of the Grace Lees she meets seem to fit that description perfectly. However, Lee herself admits that she doesn't really fit in with these other women, so her point is already proven when she starts, though she seems to think otherwise, particularly as she seems to voice disappointment that every Grace Lee she meets fits the stereotype. After some consideration, Lee decides that there are facets to each woman she talked to that set her apart from the women who share her name, just as there are facets to every Asian-American woman that distinguish her from the stereotypical "nice, quiet, petite, intelligent" girl that everyone describes, like the fourteen-year-old Grace Lee's violent art, Grace Lee Boggs' activism, and filmmaker Grace Lee's ambition in taking on this project. Lee's conclusion seems to be that while there are some uniting aspects to all Grace Lees (and Asian-American women), each is an individual who cannot be defined by her heritage alone.

The Stereotypes we live by

The director, at the beginning of the film and throughout the story, explains the types of views and ideas that people always have about Grace Lee's. She chooses that name to symbolize all asian-american women, because it's her name and it is also very popular. Every description of a Grace Lee that he has heard or received have sounded alike: a quiet, shy, smart and nice girl. Is it possible that so many different women, just by merely sharing a name and possibly a heritage can be so alike. This is the impetus for Grace's (the director) project, to find all the Grace Lee's she can and learn about the stereotypes that are always connected to them, and whether their personalities actually fit in with the stereotypes.

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March 2, 2008

The Grace Lee Project

In The Grace Lee Project, Grace Lee (the filmmaker) establishes a documenting strategy that specifically revolves around a lack of assumption. Without knowing for certain whether or not the plethora of Grace Lees encountered throughout the road trip would be similar to each other because of their common label, Grace Lee's film argues that, in essence, a name is only a title and is therefore not an all-encompassing summary of a specific human condition. On the digital road, the only "assumptions" made are those of the film's basic framing: Asian American women named "Grace Lee" only. Beyond this essentially un-criticizable premise, the film's web-based "search" is simply a passive container--it makes no judgments. On the hard surface, this philosophy is taken to its logical end--the Grace Lees are allowed to tell their stories without active intervention or (manipulative) selective framing. Stereotypes are deconstructed precisely because the traditionally stereotyped are allowed to speak without a layer of expectations and inferences that stem from anonymous conjecture. The segment in which a son of a Grace Lee presents a filmed re-enactment of a scene from The Empire Strikes Back is particularly apt in that it revolves around the theme of identity--Darth Vader is revealed to be a human being; the "evil" enemy is shown to be the protagonist's father. "Darth Vader" is merely a title for, extending into the Star Wars series, the character of Anakin Skywalker--they are not really two different people simply because of a name change. A human being is not truly altered, is not predestined to be a certain way, because of their name alone. Grace Lee learns that a common name most certainly can signify shared traits, but also that it possesses no limiting binds on personality or self- creation.

Self Discovery

I found Grace Lee’s journey very interesting and inspiring. She went looking for the differences in Asian American women, specifically the Grace Lees, and found them. Although, all of the Grace Lees she found fit into the stereotyped mold of Asian American women, they each found some way to break out of it. These differences are what actually brought the Grace Lees together in the end of the film. The fact that they didn’t all fit the “quiet, nice, petite, small? stereotype that those who knew them described them as was what connected them across the country and the globe.

I think Grace Lee the filmmaker brought home with her the idea that it isn’t true that every single Grace Lee is the same stereotypical Asian American woman. That she doesn’t need to feel bad for yearning to be different. She also brought home a message about her identity as Grace Lee. She spoke about how she realized that it was okay for her to be unsure about herself and to have some flaws. These personal realizations are what the journey is all about.

Grace Lee=Individual

At first Grace is disillusioned, because each Grace she meets seems to be similar. They are passive, nice, over-achievers. Grace then feels that she is under-accomplished compared to these women and wonders why she is so different. As her documentary continues though, she encounters many unique women. By learning about the life of each woman, Grace is able to deconstruct the stereotype about Asian American women. She meets a woman who works to change communities and the lives of everyone in them. She meets a woman who has persevered through each hardship she faced and helped a family in need. She is a woman who inspires her own son and everyone who hears her story. She meets girls who know exactly who they are in life, what they believe in, and what they want to accomplish. She discovers that each Grace Lee is not the same. Each one has their own sense of self and sense of accomplishment. She brings home with her a sense of pride in her name. I hope she brought home her own sense of accomplishment, because by taping and sharing these women's stories, she is praising them and allowing others to become inspired.

Asian American Stereotypes

Grace Lee set out to prove that all Grace Lee's are not the same. She interviewed people who knew a Grace Lee, and the majority of them said the same thing: "nice, smart, soft spoken," even the Grace Lee that tried to burn down her school was described this way. Grace Lee was trying to find the individuals in each of the Grace Lee's she contacted. Along the way, she found that the Grace Lee's had things in common, but they were definitely different women. They ranged from women who wanted to devote their lives to their beliefs to women who were really original (the Grace Lee from Detroit for example). Not only does Grace Lee break down the stereotype for being a Grace Lee, but the stereotypes for Asian Americans. As an Asian American myself, I was "victim" to many of the stereotypes. Granted, some of them are true about myself, I'm short, quite, I was in honors class in High School, I played the piano, and there are many other things too, but Grace Lee set out to prove that not all Asians are the same, and I agree with her. We have things in common, but in all reality, Asian parents just want their kids to do well. In a culture that values respect and intelligence, can we help it if our parents have similar thoughts. If you thing about it, American parents do the same thing, just in a different way. Americans value individuality, but the thing that American parents and Asian parents have in common is that they teach their children the value of respect.

"Not 'that' Grace Lee"

In her film, The Grace Lee Project, filmmaker Grace Lee goes on a journey to find other Grace Lees in the US (specifically California) and even globally, as evident in the inclusion of a lesbian Grace Lee in Korea, to find out what makes them and herself unique from all of the other Grace Lees. By making contact with these women, both online and in person, the film maker begins to get an idea of what all of these women seemingly have in common: smart, quiet, passive, nice, etc. These are all qualities that are seen as stereotypical of Asian women. But another commonality of these women are that many of the women interviewed believe themselves to not actually personify these qualities; they instead see them as something that the other Grace Lees possess.

Grace Lee the film maker goes in search of the women that are the anomalies to these stereotypes. Most of the time when she finds these women (the girl who tries to set her school on fire, the lesbian activist) she is later let down to find out that they really do seem to fit the stereotypes (the high school student was embarrassed about her academic record; the lesbian later renounces her sexuality and requests to be excluded from the film to protect her family). Although these two women do seem to only reinforce the Asian women stereotypes, I believe that they exhibit unstereotypical characteristics of Asian women. In both of their cases, it took them strength, initiative, and courage to do what they did, particularly in the case of the lesbian for coming out and being such an activist. These characteristics are hardly ever attributed to Asian women, so I believe that they help break down such stereotypes and may give the film maker a greater belief that not all Grace Lees are the same.

What's in a name?

I found The Grace Lee Project very interesting, as a search for identity through names and associated stereotypes. Before we watched the movie, I actually had no clue this was such a common name amongst Asian Americans. Up here in Minnesota, a lot of the Koreans I have met whom have common names are like Kim Lee or Joe Kim. But I suppose that, had I lived in Calfornia, with its larger Asian American population, I would have known that.

It was interesting how, after she began her digital interactions with other Grace Lees, she was able to construct a common stereoptype of Grace Lees, like how she is 5'3" and born in America from immigrant parents. Even the Grace Lee that seemingly was the biggest moldbreaker, the one who set her high school on fire, sounded like she fit the mold of otherwise nice and very smart. I think that the older Grace Lee from Detriot seemed to not fit the stereotype of other Grace Lees, and in the biggest way I think, was that she was very head strong and did what she wanted and felt was right, like fighting for the rights of African Americans and inner city youth. The fact that she is a very strong woman goes against the typical Asian female stereotype of being quiet, passive, and in the background. I related to Grace Lee the filmmaker of the documentary, because I do not feel like I fit the typical Asian American female mold. When she asked people on the street what they think when they think of Asian females, common responses were "quiet, shy, very studious, really petite"; in Grace's words "aren't these all words for passive?" Although I am petite and physically a "typical" Asian, I do not want to think I am passive, quiet, or shy. I am outspoken like Detriot Grace Lee, I am definately NOT soft-spoken, and although I am a hard worker, I myself feel, like filmmaker Grace Lee, that I do not feel like an over-achiever who always has known what she was going to be. Through the handful of Grace Lees she meets, she lets them tell their stories and gives them a voice amongst all the other Asian Americans and amongst all the other Grace Lees out there. There may be a lot of similarities between the women, but they are coincidental, each of these Grace Lees are different and unique.

One common thread I found in this film, was that there wasn't a lot of direct, obvious suffering, like The Angela Shelton focused on, but there was a lot of emotional suffering and stress due to one common Asian stereotype, which is the parents put immense pressure on their children to succeed. You saw that in the reason one Grace Lee set her school on fire, in the younger Grace Lee who used "dark art" to express her frustration with pressure from her dad, and in the lesbian Grace Lee from Korea who later withdrew consent to be shown in the movie, out of respect for her parents. One Grace Lee was indeed physically abused when she was younger, but a common thread was more emotional distress from parental pressure. In my experiences with other Asian Americans, parents who immigrate here put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed, because that is the exact reason why they came here in the first place; yet the children want to be able to find their own voice. It's hard to be an Asian American, because you want to keep in touch with your Asian heritage, yet you want to be a mainstream American as well. I feel like those two conflicts showed up in quite a few of the Grace Lees.

I think that, after her journey, she found that Grace Lee as a name might seem like it defines a person, but what truly defines someone can come from the same source of their name: their family and background can affect how you develop and grow, whether that be as a "PK", or a nurse, or a helping hand to someone who has been abused, or a filmmaker from California.

March 1, 2008

Every Grace Lee is Unique

I found the film The Grace Project really interesting. First of all, when I first heard the name Grace Lee, the image of an Asian American never popped into my head. I actually thought of your typical American white girl, so it was interesting to find out that this entire film was about deconstructing the stereotypes of Asian Americans, since all of the women in the film named Grace Lee were of that ethnicity. I think that she tried to change peoples minds about Asian American stereotypes by talking to the different Grace Lee's. For example, the 80 something Grace Lee definately was not your typical Asian American because she was an activist for African Americans. I am not saying that Asians do not support African Americans but it is not often that you see the two working together since both groups face difficulties in American culture. Also, by talking to the two Christian women she was reversing stereotypes since many people believe that Asians are only apart of the Eastern religions and they were prime examples of Western religious followers. I think that her main message about Grace Lee's and Asian American women in general is that there are similarities between these women, but yet each one is unique in their own way. She demonstrated this idea at the end of her film when she had each women state what made them different, some said their careers others there appearances. My favorite line was from a younger Grace Lee who mentioned the mole on her face. I feel that at the end of the film she realized something about herself. She understood that she is not going to be the smartest or most successful Grace Lee in America, but she is unique and she will bring something to this country that no other Grace Lee ever has or ever will.

Finding Grace Lee (the real one)

Grace Lee the film maker sets out to find out what's really in a name, specifically the name Grace Lee. The overwhelming majority of people she encounters who have known a Grace Lee all describe the same prototypical woman...Asian, petite, soft spoken, intelligent, nice. Thus Grace, the film maker, wonders, is ones name destined to shape ones personality? Are all Grace Lee's made to fit this Asian American woman mold? While many of the Grace Lee's she meets on the road fit the typical Grace Lee description they are also so much more. Each Grace Lee is influential and unique in her own way, from spreading and sharing christianity to risking her life for a friend. The road allows her to meet these women, who on the surface come off soft spoken and nice, but meeting them in person and hearing their stories enables a deeper understanding and respect for the Grace Lee's of the country. For example, Grace Lee Boggs, most definitely Asian, petite, nice, and intelligent, excels so far beyond these binding characteristics in her political activism and dedication to her community. Thus while on the road, the original Grace Lee facilitates the deconstruction of Asian American women as only fitting one profile. She illustrates that Grace Lee's break the mold everyday, but that they also have a lot in common, yet this is a positive thing. She likes this similarity, there is no longer a fear of being compared with other Grace Lee's; in essence she set out to defy a stereotype of Asian American Women and in doing so found out more about herself, as well as pride and comfort in being a Grace Lee.

Finding Grace Lee

February 29, 2008

What about my name...?

Grace Lee (the filmmaker) effectively uses the road to deconstruct the stereotype that surrounds Asian women in the United States in her film, The Grace Lee Project. I feel that she does this by first establishing the stereotype (smart, quiet, blends in), which ends up taking up quite a bit of the film. After establishing the key characteristics of Grace Lees’ – or the common characteristics of all Asian American women – she can then move forward with the film and show distinct Grace Lees’ who break the mold and are changing the world around them. These women demonstrate that the box society gives Asian women can be broken out of, but sadly, not many do because of the strict social norms. Grace’s disappointment is shown when she discovers that the Grace Lee based in Seoul ends up giving up her groundbreaking work because of its social implications. In the end though, Grace proves her point: each of us is different and breaks the mold in our own way, but society should take some pressure off Asian women to act in a certain manner.

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You Are Either Asian Or American, Not Both

"Most of the time these other Grace Lees were only faintly remembered. They were "good girls" obedient, smart, and throughly dull. The more I heard about these other Grace Lees, the more I became convinced that "Grace Lee" signified a boring, conservative hyper-achiever, confirming already existing stereotypes of Asian Americans. I secretly feared that my name alone lumped me together with people I felt I had nothing in common with, or worse, with people who made me look bad! Was I just as boring and fishy as those other Grace Lees?" (The Grace Lee Project)

The "Grace Lee Project" was an interesting reflection of the Asian-American society, as well as the Asian-American woman. Being Asian though not being Korean, I felt a sort of affinity towards this documentary as I could relate to many of the themes. Asian-Americans are often viewed as being overachievers because they try to be overachievers. If they are not smart and talented at every musical instrument starting with A to Z, their family will look down at them and pressure them. Asian-Americans often have to work twice as hard as their Western Counterparts because Asians in America often do not get much respect. In order to get the respect they want and deserve, they have to work and show people how capable they are. Asian-Americans are often insecure and need people to tell them over and over that they are smart. They should not have to be like this.

This movie was exceptionally enlightening as it showed us how people do not have to abide by stereotypes in order to be happy as the happiest Asian-American was the ones who did what they wanted to do whether it was drawing weird pictures, playing musical instruments, or practicing their religion of choice. I think that this movie was more about being Asian-American rather than focusing on the feminism aspect of the movie. The stereotypes regarding being Asian-American can apply to both male and female Asian-Americans and as a result, I am not really sure as to how this particular movie was relevant to this class. However, it was a really nice movie, a good wholesome documentary that far exceeded the Angela Shelton documentary in both the creative and professional manners of the movie.


Identifying as Grace Lee

During the making of THE GRACE LEE PROJECT, both my best hopes and worst fears were confirmed and there were many surprises along the way. I learned what makes each of the Grace Lees that I met unique and what binds us all together.
(Grace Lee)

In the film The Grace Lee Project , the director Grace Lees explores identity politics by uncovering what her common name means in the world of the stereotyped Asian American woman that she has difficulty identifying with. The question that Grace frequently fouces on is that of how each Grace Lee distinguishes themselves and in a broader context how they identify themselves as well. What Grace finds is that she is not alone in her identity crisis that is related to her name; on her journey she finds a community of women who also struggle with the seterotype of Asian American women and who they themselves really are.

While Grace finds many common experiences with the women she meets with she also uncovers various differences in lives of some very remarkable women. One of these women is Grace Lee Boggs, a social activist in the black community of Detroit. Grace Lee Boggs was apart of the Civil Rights movement and leaves the director Grace with her own view that Identity is not in your name but in the things you do. Grace focuses more closely on the things that other Grace Lees do, which moves the documentary from humerous clips on the stereotype of Grace Lees to a captive story telling of the lives of each individual Grace. With such as shift in the documentary each Grace gains their own identity. I think this documentary gives Grace Lee identity by using multideminsonal conceptual analysis to uncover the struggle that all people face when attempting to set themselves apart for the social constructed stereotype they are placed in. Many different aspects of each Grace Lees' life were exposed to unfold a comprehensive image and identity that goes beyond just a name.

Grace Lees of the World

I really enjoyed "The Grace Lee Project." It was refreshing to have a bit of humor. I found it interesting that Grace Lee (filmmaker) began her quest on the internet, she let the Grace Lees come to her. She did surveys and researched the other Grace Lees. On paper, the Grace Lees looked very similar but after taking to road and meeting each Grace Lee, they proved be unique. Through the surveys and interviews with those who knew a Grace Lee, filmmaker Grace Lee showed the different stereotypes that were applied to Asain American women and, consequently, to the Grace Lees of the world. The Grace Lees were used to show the generalizations made on all Asian American women. The road became a way to deconstruct the stereotypes. Grace Lee showed women from all different ages, different family backgrounds, and different paths of life. Each woman that we met was extraordinary, from helping clean up a city to taking in an abused family, these Grace Lees exceded expectations and defied stereotypes. At the beginning of the film the filmmaker was unsure of her role as Grace Lee, she did not seem to fit any of the generalizations. Through the search of others with her same name, the filmmaker discovered that each Grace Lee was an individual and took on life in their own way. It helped her realize that she too was special, even though she was categorized as a "Grace Lee," Asian American woman.