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Agency and the Other

Agency and the Other

Near the end of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), the detective, Jake Gittes, convinced of the guilt of his client/lover Evelyn Mulwray, charges into the house where she is staying. Mulwray’s Chinese housekeeper tries to block Gittes from entering, but Gittes brushes him aside. Since the housekeeper does not deter Gittes in any way, he does not “bend” the story. As a result, he does not have a beat1—he could just as well be a chair blocking the entrance, an inanimate object to be tossed away. This is the role that many minority, female, and marginalized characters have played throughout the history ...

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