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Pet Sins February 2000

A Thousand Pieces of Gold

Note: This is not a review of the book or the movie. This is a commentary on how the movie is being packaged to appeal to a certain target audience.

A Thousand Pieces of Gold is a 1991 movie produced by Nancy Kelly. It is based on a book by Ruthanne Lum McCunn. The story is based on a real life China-born woman who was sold into a bordello in the American West. The woman, who comes to be known as Polly, resists all attempts by men to exploit her sexually and later marries happily.

According to the book, Polly's European American friend Charlie won her in a bet from her Chinese "owner". Charlie meant to save her from being forced into prostitution, but Polly initially doubts his intentions. Charlie shows his consideration for her by specially making a smaller chair, amongst other things. Later, when Charlie is badly wounded and on the brink of death, he asks Polly to marry him so that she would inherit all his money if he dies.

When I found the movie on a video store shelf, it had a sex scene between Polly and Charlie on the front cover. Why? Many movies with a far more erotic focus don't even put nude/sex scenes on the front of the video cassette cover. I think this is an insult to Charlie and Polly, courageous people who worked through immense difficulties to get along, to highlight a nude scene. I doubt that this is the intended message of the book author or movie director. I don't know who made decisions for the design of packaging, but clearly, it is a marketing strategy to attract white men with Asian fetish.

This is very disappointing. I've known Asian women who didn't even give the video's content a chance because they were turned off by the cover. It could have been a superb movie but how would they know? The packaging of the video cassette version of A Thousand Pieces of Gold has alienated the very class of people the story purportedly gives tribute to -- Asian women.

Jan 2000