I just can’t stop thinking about Astaire’s role in this novel.
I think the idea of Astaire actually plays a really significant role in Donald Duk’s initial understanding of American stereotypes vs. Chinese stereotypes in regards to masculinity and feminity.
I think in some regards Donald feels as though he can look up to Fred Astaire because he is doing something feminine and not getting teased and actually being very well-revered for what he does. And I think that Donald thinks, probably unconsciously, that this is because Astaire is a white American. This goes along with Donald’s desire to sort of ignore his Chinese heritage. When he rejects his Chinese culture it is in part because of the stereotypes that he has been exposed to in school, such as the feminizing of Asian cultures.
So if we following along with stereotypes here, if Donald embraced his Chinese heritage and danced, he would in a sense be doubly feminized. (I think this idea accounts for his treatment and thoughts about his dance instructor, “The Chinese Fred Astaire”). But if Donald sort of rejects his Chinese heritage he is just an American and then if he dances like Fred Astaire those stereotypes are all gone.
On top of this, throughout this novel we see a focus on being masculine and countering the idea that Asian cultures are feminized and how important that is to Dad in particular. I feel as though Fred Astaire compared with Donald’s dance instructor is just another way of Frank Chin putting emphasis on the feminizing stereotypes that Donald has been exposed to and believes to be true and are then causing him to resist his Chinese heritage.