Dear Asia: F@#$ You Because let's face it; they all know martial arts.
And martial arts is all they know.
Or so Hollywood would have us think.
Maybe I'm an oversensitive person (though many would disagree), but I found this poster, being put up all over the Shaw Cinema in Singapore, kind of offensive. Maybe because we don't see the same thing in the US; where's the poster for
Couch Potato Bald Eagle?
Maybe I was torked because out of all 8 screens in that cineplex, a movie from the same side of the planet was only being shown on
onescreen. And it was the smallest of the eight.
Luckily for me, my friend had no interest in any of the other films. I didn't want to see any of them anyway. I had already seen
Chocolate, but it was great seeing it again.
The poster was great too; apparently Quentin Tarantino wrote the copy:
The 'shut off your phone' PSA before the film was provided by Dreamworks; the Kung Fu Panda (voiced by Jack Black) telling us to be respectful to the movie and the audience and shut off the phones.
This animated Orientalist Hollywood abortion talking about respect, in a movie theater in Singapore no less, turned my stomach.
Do as they say, not as they do. For they do what they say we must not.
The globalization of Hollywood is a very interesting topic, especially when you see it from the receiving end. Am I the only one struck by the incongruity of a huge advertising campaign for
Sex in the City... in
Am I the only one who wonders why, in two-thousand-effing-eight, we get stuff like
The Forbidden Kingdom and
Kung Fu Panda that shows us Hollywood (and to a great extent its audience) has not changed it's perception nor portrayal of Asia one iota?
And guess what song is used in
Kung Fu Panda?
What song gets used in EVERY f@#$ing Hollywood movie about martial arts?
Don't make me say it.
Carl Douglas is the anti-Christ...
Am I the only one who notices the clumsy, ham-fisted machinations used to confine ethnicities for some and refuse its assignment to others? How come some people are forced to be one way, and others are free to be any way they choose (which is usually the way the other people are being)?
You know a good litmus test for this kind of thing? The relationship between ethnicity and narrative. Will Smith isn't Black; he's
green, as in money. He's popular enough that he need not take part in films in which his ethnicity has any function or role in the plot. He gets to be a person, not a
If a character's ethnicity can remain irrelevant to the plot, that is a good thing. Because white people's ethnic irrelevance is so often intrinsic to the plot. Or should I say the
dismissalof their ethnicity is relevant;
The Last Samurai,
Bulletproof Monk, etc., etc., f@#$ing etc.
Wouldn't it be great to see a movie where Chinese people were just characters and not 'Chinese' characters? Because the reverse is rarely if ever true; White people always get some kind of Ethnicity Pass; "We're all the same on the inside" -
The Forbidden Kingdom.
If we're all the same, why don't we all get portrayed the same way in movies? Why don't we all get to be 'human' beings with the freedom of being whoever and whatever we want?
Why doesn't Hong Kong make a movie where Jackie Chan comes to the US, decides to play hockey because it looks fun, and 6 months later wins the Stanley Cup
When I tell people I love Hong Kong movies, they frequently (
alwaysin the US) ask if I study martial arts; they assume a kind of
Iron Monkey see,
Iron Monkey do. I use that pun intentionally, because I know someone who was in that movie, and she offered to teach me Tai Chi. I declined, because I refuse to indulge in that particular 'tradition'; I don't want any part of my life to be capable of being represented by a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, much less Ralph Macchio.
The other question they ask is if I have an Asian girlfriend.
I know many of you will find this
shocking, but my charming, witty, easygoing nature is apparently not
winsome (!) enough to attract a woman ofany
Yes, I'm a white guy who loves Hong Kong movies. But that doesn't mean I'm stocking up on silk outfits or raven-haired companions. Sorry to disappoint you.
Then again, I'm
The only thing worse than living under the shadow of Hollywood's ongoing global domination is being inextricably linked to it by virtue of my membership in national and cultural groups whose behavīors in and around these matters is, to be kind, deserving of critical attention.
white; I thought I could do and be whatever I wanted. How
dareyou (supposedly) docile and welcoming people try to pigeonhole me because of my ethnicity! Haven't you seen
The Last Samurai? Will I have to kick your ass?
Kung Fu slipper's on the other foot now, ain't it, Karate Kid?
I understand why people ask me if I practice martial arts and have an Asian girlfriend. I accept it. It ain't like I have a choice. And a lot of my good friends fit those descrīptions. I don't think that makes them bad people. It's just not me.
The saddest part about this is that I will have to take Vickie, my 9-year old movie-going partner, to see
Kung Fu Panda. She's a very bright little kid. Another few years of this and she'll start asking me about these things. What the hell am I supposed to say?
I wish someone would make a martial arts version of
The Great White Hype. Hardly a cinematic classic, but it makes its point, and I would love to see it redone in Hong Kong.
I would laugh myself silly.
And I would take Vickie to see it at least four times.
In a perfect world, anybody could be anyone in movies.
Especially movies made by a country that constantly tells its citizens (and Vickie is one of them) that they can be whoever they want to be.
If Vickie grows up to be an actress in Hong Kong, she
If she goes to Hollywood, she can play a mail order bride, a prostitute, an oppressed victim of criminals or communists, or some 'inscrutable' Dragon Lady.
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