Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cultrual Stereotypes and Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda, one can immediately grasp the essence of the movie before even watching it. Having a cute panda with Chinese Kung Fu would surely make a Hollywood block-buster. But the movie is pretty much confined within Hollywood's self-defined, so called "main-stream", perception of Asian Americans. We are already at the dawn of a new era where America is considering a black president. However, we still have yet to see a Hollywood movie with a positive (normal) portrait Asian American male as the main actor, not as martial art master, not as a villan, not as a nerdy geek, but just as a normal person. Is that so hard for America?

BTW, it seems my perception is not the only one. The following blog also highlight a similar opinion:

Here is a quote:
kirk: My point wasn't quite about racism, it was more about exploitation of a culture that is routinely treated as "exotic."

And since Asian Americans aren't always as mobilized as black Americans, they sometimes don't throw down over these sorts of things, even if they annoy them. This obviously wasn't worth a full assault. It's more of a minor infraction.

Most Asian's love Mulan because Disney worked closely with the Asian community to make it and it was based on their history. It's about what's tasteful and what isn't. It's a fine line. And Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan are routinely criticized in the Asian American community for the choices they've made in American cinema.

So my point really wasn't so much about the film, but how Asian Americans don't see representations of themselves as just people, not kung fu masters or cartoons, but just people in cinema.

That doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad movie, but it is part of a cycle that continues to only dramatize the parts of Asian culture western audiences are most fascinated by.


Shankar Hemmady said...

William - Yes, cultural stereotyping, and continually reinforcing such steoreotypes is a common malady. It sells! Much $$ rides on these stupid stereotypes. Most of our jokes, our perception of all others besides us is based on such stereotyping. It is a very common reductionist approach to an otherwise intractable problem -- seeing people as they are without any preconceived notions! The moment I say this, someone out there will say -- Zen or Eckhart Tolle or Eastern philosophy or mysticism or .... that's classical reductionistic stereotyping.


Red said...

what about harold and kumar