Friday, April 22, 2005

Kung Fu Shuffle

Sony Classics has been promoting the hell out of Kung Fu Hustle, Stephan Chow's crossover martial arts comedy which was a top-grossing film in Hong Kong. Most reviewers are also being exceptionally kind to Chow's film, giving it anywhere from 3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars and calling it "gut-bustingly funny" and a "insanely entertaining smash-fantasy burlesque". I haven't been able to stomach the trailers. Kung Fu Hustle comes out in the States this Friday and I'm more than a little disgusted. The problem is that the racial dynamics of the States aren't what they are in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Stephan Chow's racial makeup is like everyone else's -- he's poking fun at a traditional, accepted mainstream drama -- but his and everyone else's presence in the film is usual -- he looks like everyone else. Tasteless or otherwise, moviegoers in Hong Kong will be laughing with Chow at the absurdity of an outlandish caricature of a cultural genre; in America, audiences are laughing at him. In the States the cast's visual race becomes a factor. Asians make up a bare 2.5% of overall representation in Hollywood, and when we are shown on screen, the actor's race is an important defining reason for his character's raison d'etre. Asians in American Hollywood often become transfigured into representations of Asians overall -- i.e., because of the disparity of Asians in American cinema, unlike in Hong Kong, in America, Stephan Chow's Kung Fu Hustle becomes a racialized comedy. With that in mind, I view the opening weekend of Kung Fu Hustle with a sense of impending dread. As I overheard one male Caucasian moviegoer say to another when we were filing past a promotional cut-out for the film, "it's like an Asian 'Enter the Fist'" -- and though this guy was saying this as an appraisal of both films, he couldn't have said a truer word. Steve Oederkirk's highly racialized, mocking and derogatory caricature of martial arts films featured 'ching chong' chinese and Caucasian Oederkirk donning yellowface to play the film's lead character. American audiences will not view Kung Fu Hustle much differently -- they are going to laugh at the absurdity of rural Cantonese lifestyles and outlandish ching-chong antics. Yet Stephan Chow has removed the on-your-face tastelessness of Enter the Fist and provided the sentiment a certain amount of validity by providing an authentic cast of Real Live Asians (tm) to don the yellowface, but, in the end, the level of humour is the same. And having a bunch of Asian activists promote this film like it's the best thing since fortune cookies is further validating the film's racialized message. Most reviews of Kung Fu Hustle have admitted that the plot is shaky at best, that the characterizations are one-dimensional and flat, and that the film appeals to the same inner child who loves to watch Wile E. Coyote get his ass kicked by an ACME anvil. Except, this time, Wile E. Coyote has slanted eyes and mocha yellow skin. I'm not even arguing that Stephan Chow created this film to intentionally capitalize off of Asian minstrelsy (as Jackie Chan did). This movie was made for Hong Kong audiences; I blame people like Tarentino and Sony Classics for being completely insensitive to the introduced racial dynamics when trying to bring an Asian film to the States as a crossover hit. I blame the Asian activists who see a cast of Asians and immediately flock to the film, desperate to gobble up any scraps of recognition thrown from the Master's table. When will Asians stop catering to white culture and realize that to be accepted as the quintessential House Negro is not to be integrated into American culture? I'm looking for racial harmony too, but Kung Fu Hustle is far too remniscent of the early twentieth century bumbling, clumsy, dehumanized and stupid Oriental clown for my tastes. If people were keeping track of how far things set the race back, this film would've sent us plummeting backwards and off the chart. If APIAs really want to be respected, than realize this: shucking 'n jiving, steppin' and fetchin', smearing our faces with caramelized burnt cork and playing the buffoon for the White Man is not the answer.


Anonymous Chuck Norris said...

Not only is your skin yellow, it is fragile as well.

Can I give you a tissue once you are done boo-hooing?

Would a film full of caucasians being beaten and humiliated be more to your liking?

I'm sure just like the modern negro, all you can do is blame "whitey"...I thought more highly of Asians. I guess I was wrong.

5/02/2005 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

lol "chuck norris", can't even come up with a more clever name...

5/02/2005 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

mmmm... someone buying into the model minority myth much?

5/02/2005 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Hey chuck, when's the last time you made a movie? What happened to your career?

Maybe everyone else here wants to be nice to you, but I don't feel like it. The only one doing the boo-hooing and whining is you.

Instead of engaging in such useless pop anthropology (any "modern negro" you said that to would be hard-pressed not to beat your ass) maybe you want to re-read the post here.

Why in the world would an Asian American showing distaste for a film that makes fun of Asian (and thereby Asian Americans) be boo-hooing? Maybe you should interrogate why you feel like all minorities are only around to make you laugh before you come here and get mad at an Asian that tries to make you think.

5/02/2005 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck Norris said...

It's so easy for minorites to pull out the race card as soon as they feel they aren't receiving what they feel they are "entitled" to.

It's easy to always look for someone else to place your blame.

How in any way is "Kung Fu Shuffle" any more insulting to Asians than "Joe Dirt" is to whites?


5/02/2005 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...


That pretty much describes you perfectly right now.

5/03/2005 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

How in any way is "Kung Fu Shuffle" any more insulting to Asians than "Joe Dirt" is to whites?

Dunno. Never saw 'Joe Dirt'. I do know that David Spade is a sad, sorry excuse for a comedian. Either way, I hardly think that white audiences viewing a film starring a white comedian is going to project those images onto their perception of all white Americans -- Joe Dirt was not a white clown, he was just a clown -- whereas white audiences viewing this film are laughing at a racialized buffonery image... the yellow-skinned, buck-toothed minstrel.

And, btw, the title of the post is a play on the title of the movie 'Kung Fu Hustle'. You might want to get your facts straight before rushing to defend a movie you know nothing about lest you sound ignorant, mr. norris.

5/03/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Chuck Norris said...

Ha...I've seen the whatever. The last thing I was thinking about was how the movie was "degrading" to Asians. I could have cared less if they were black, white, asian, klingon, whatever...

YOU are the one hung up on race. The biggest racists usually are.

You are not as smart as you think you are.

5/03/2005 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck Norris said...

By the way phillyjay, can you be any more of a ass-kisser? You have nothing interesting to say. Goodbye.

5/03/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Chink Norass said...

Chucky my boy, you really don't know what you're talking about. Being an American of Vietnamese descent myself, I understand the little lady's concerns about this ridiculous film (but don't worry partner, I thought it was pretty darn funny too!)

Now what concerns me, is how this little lady that runs this site is getting along. My feelings are she should go to the gym and lose some weight, put on a dress, shave that mustache, and lose the attitude! What self-respecting Asian male is gonna want to hang with such a gal?

By the way, did you know it's the 30th anniversary of my homelands fall to communism? Glad my mom and pop got the hell outta Dodge when they did! I got family over their still and they say some pretty bad things about those pinko commies!

Well Chucky, I hope you wise up about us Asians, you got a lot to learn partner!

Over and out!

5/11/2005 09:07:00 AM  

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