Keep on Wondering...

What are the connections between social and historical forces and the representations we see?
Why is yellowface still acceptable? When and how did yellowface turn into whitewashing?
How do these representations create and/or perpetuate stereotypes that are present in our world? What is the impact?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Jackie Chan Atrocity: The Spy Next Door

Who likes Jackie Chan movies? Not me!

This guy started his career as a Bruce Lee imitation - oddly enough, he was an extra in Enter the Dragon. Jackie Chan's movie characters end up being a strange smorgasbord of Charlie Chan's subservience and humbleness, Long Duk Dong's embarrassing eagerness, Bruce Lee's superhuman and "inherently Asian" martial arts skills and the slapstick-y, ugly comedic timing of Hnup Wan and Fan Choy a la One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing with a hyped-up Perpetual Foreigner thing going on. In other words, it combines all of the really obnoxious traits of the above stereotypes into one atrocious character who appears almost every year in a new C-list movie with weak plots and weaker dialogue. Jackie Chan movies tend to consist of slapstick, martial arts, an atrocious accent, some connection "back in China" and (usually) an attractive white woman as Jackie's (son of Charlie?) love interest. It's a formula that has been well overworked and seems to be the only thing that Jackie Chan is capable of, and The Spy Next Door is no exception.

The trailer speaks for itself. Jackie Chan plays Bob Ho, a CIA (Chinese Intelligence Agency, good lord) operative who disguises his true identity under Clark Kent-esque glasses and sweater vests. He's in love with his neighbor Gillian (Amber Valletta) and wants to marry her but her three kids hate him. When Gillian's dad ends up in the hospital for unimportant reasons, Bob ends up watching the kids. But some evil Russians (what?) want to capture Bob so they try to do that, but that doesn't work. In the end, there's a big fight and Bob and Gillian get married.

Look, Ma, no plot!
The plot itself is not important, because this movie was absolute crap. The acting is atrocious. There is no plot. There is only one decent punchline, and it's completely forgettable. You don't even need to watch the movie - the trailer will suffice. It's a Jackie Chan movie, for goodness' sake! It doesn't need a plot, because it has Jackie Chan and fight scenes and nameless, brooding baddies get their asses handed on a platter to them. 

In fact, the only moderately enjoyable scenes in any of Jackie Chan's movies (including this one) are the fight scenes, mostly because they don't usually require Mr. Chan to talk. He just fights and is done. This seemed to work for Bruce Lee too. They fought, and that was about the only tolerable thing onscreen that they could do. However, Bruce Lee's characters were  morally upright and super guys, whereas Jackie Chan's characters are all foolish and bumbling but ass-kicking as well. 

Dear God, it's called "Chop Suey?" Really? REALLY? "Chop SUEEEEYYY! Chop SUEEEEEEYY! Living here is very much like CHOP SUEY!" 
While it's great that Asians/-Americans have someone like Jackie Chan as a familiar/extremely famous face in the media, it's awful that he portrays the same characters over and over again, and that he really doesn't do anything other than beat up bad guys. It's all that he is really "good" for, and it's shameful. Has Jackie Chan been typecast as a slapstick-y foreign ass-kicker? Unabashedly, yes. He's made some attempts to get out of that stereotype, but unfortunately, he can't. It's too hard to imagine this "yellow Uncle Tom" as anything other than a slightly dumb, slightly FOB-y martial artist. That's it. All brawn, no brain. Maybe a tiny hint of a brain. But no emotional depth. A perpetual foreigner whose only purpose is to bust out some karate chop hands and take down a group of evildoers. Disappointment abounds.
In no way is this a slight on Jackie Chan himself. However, it's a slight on his characters and the roles he has played in movies past, and the persona that has been built up around him. 

Prepare for more Jackie Chan posts in the future.

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