Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Charlie Chan - villain or hero?

I've just released a special podcast of my interview with a man who is forcing us to rethink this man:

Charlie Chan, the philosophical Chinese crimestopper created by Earl Derr Biggers. Chan appeared in four dozen movies ... until people became disgusted with him as a sort of Uncle Tom.

To tell you the truth, I don't dislike the books and movies because Chan is a stereotype; I dislike them because they're just not very good. Let's just say they're not very complex.

But UCSB prof Yunte Huang (who is at Vroman's in Pasadena Friday, September 24), a Chinese immigrant to the US, discovered them a few years ago and has published a highly praised reevaluation of the detective, called Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History. A highpoint of Huang's book is his research into the amazing Hawaiian cop who inspired Der Biggers' character.