Who is Tony Chu?

     In Layman and Guillory’s comic, Chew, Tony Chu’s character is undefined.  The authors juxtapose this ambiguity to other models of masculinity commonly associated with Western notions.  This is depicted when Tony goes after the serial killer Tracy Lee Cobbs and takes him down.  The method Tony uptakes is not defined by any sort of masculinity (overwhelming physical physique, guns or karate-chopping action), but rather by his animalistic desire to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth and uphold justice.  In response, Cobbs asks, “What the hell ARE you?” alluding to what kind of masculinity he is portraying. 

This is what enables the authors to put North American models of masculinity on the peripheral for the audience to scrutinize.  Fung describes Phillipe Rushton’s index of sexual restraint which places Asians (“Orientals” (1)) on the overly restrained end and Blacks on the opposing end, “eclipsed” as a “penis” (3), stating “since whites fall squarely in the middle, the position of perfect balance, there is no need for analysis, and they remain free of scrutiny” (1).  In Chew the subject of analysis and scrutiny is Euro-American male masculinity, and we see the sort of idolized heroic masculinity in American popular culture get literally cleaved by the middle of Chapter 1.  However, Tony is neither eclipsed by the “particular constellation of stereotyping and racial hierarchy” (1) nor the type of hyper masculinization described in Ang’s article either.  In the panels with John Colby, Tony shares equal space, while the singular panels he occupies focus on his mouth during his conclusion with Cobbs.

In conclusion, Eng talks about queerness and diaspora in relation to opening up a “broader set of Asian American identities” (Eng 219), therefore blurring strict notions of Asian American within the domestic and the Domestic.  Consequently, Fung’s search for his penis is thwarted by the media’s “visual apartheid” (Fung 4) where depictions of Asians and Asian Americans are “reframed from a white perspective” (7) and placed on the “peripheral” and “not commercially viable” (10). Chew restructures this “visual apartheid” and reorganizes Euro-American masculinities, centering them on the ambiguity or “queerness” of Tony Chu’s masculinity (whatever it might be).  Contrasting these masculinities against the canvas of Tony Chu’s ambiguity lets the audience see their flaws.

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