The Monkey King is in Town tells an endearing story of Alex, a nine-year-old boy who struggles to find a Chinese American superhero to dress up as for a Halloween party. The film brings awareness to a very real issue of representation in literature and media, especially in terms of the kinds of content that young children absorb. Alex, like many children of color, struggles to find a character in comic books and on television who looks like him, someone he can identify with and look up to.
Although I never had a particular interest in superheroes growing up, I definitely had experiences of struggling with finding Asian and Asian American, specifically Chinese and Chinese American, in my case, characters to look up to in popular American media. In early elementary school, Mulan was one of the only characters I could think of and my peers could think of who “looked like me.” Because she was the only one, however, I began to resent her character and the film because all of my friends kept comparing me to her, placing me in a box because of my ethnicity.
I felt a very strong connection to The Monkey King is in Town. It depicts an experience that I and many people of color, especially Chinese Americans and Asian Americans in general, had as children. The story of the Monkey King is also one that many Chinese and Chinese American children grew up with. He was one of my brother’s favorite characters growing up. My brother and I read the books, as well as watched the cartoons and the movies. I highly suggest all people, no matter their background and childhood experiences, come watch this film screened at IPAAFF.
This film will be played during the Ithaca Pan Asian-American Film Festival on Thursday, April 20.