I thought it was interesting, and the narrator pointed this out, that while the nameless extras could be played by Vietnamese people, as they all scream “AIEYAAHHH!!!” (157) but for the Vietnamese characters within the movie The Hamlet that “we could not represent ourselves; we must be represented, in this case by other Asians” (158). I thought this was an interesting parallel to the narrator, as he is a spy and therefore cannot represent his actual feelings, even in the course of the movie, and that people perceive him by the representations of others. It’s said that the Asian actors cast do not even look like who they are supposed to be portraying, and the excuse for acting is just that: an excuse. They would not hire the Vietnamese amateur actors and claimed the professional ones overacted, but the actors like Danny Boy were both amateurs and later commented as having overacted, so they could have easily chosen the Vietnamese actors instead but didn’t. The narrator signed up for the film because he wanted to add his voice but they wouldn’t let him, and denying these actors opportunities is another way in making sure their perspective is not heard.
In the opening chapters of The Bluest Eye, I was struck by the way the characters’ self-awareness and senses of self worth are dominated by guilt surrounding race, gender, and appearance. From the first moment of Claudia’s narration, the italicized section of the prologue, we get a sense of her mind as one that seems to default towards guilt. She describes the fall of 1941, when she and her sister were unable to grow marigolds, writing “for years I thought my sister was right: it was my fault. I had planted them too far down in the earth. It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding.” This tendency to blame herself and put herself down appears throughout the section we read today, and it is a quality that Pecola seems to share, particularly with regard to her appearance. Both characters project their feelings towards white girls onto inanimate objects that are supposed to represent beauty. Claudia takes her anger (and perhaps jealousy) of white girls out on the dolls she destroys, and Pecola projects her longing to achieve white standards of beauty by compulsively drinking milk out of the Shirley Temple mug. Pecola’s self-awareness is inhibited by this longing—she upsets Claudia and Frieda’s mother by inadvertently drinking three entire quarts of milk just to “handle and see sweet Shirley’s face” (23). Later, the three girls feel so guilty and afraid of Mama’s anger that when Pecola gets her period, their first instinct is to hide it from their mother.