the karate kid? yeah i did.

posted by missmsian

AAAARRRGGHGHHHHGHGHGHAHAAARHGHGHGHGHAHG.

That’s my best Karate Kid impression. Also, my conflicted feelings about the movie. I saw it last night with three friends. And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

But what to make of a movie that smashes as many stereotypes as it reinforces?

*Spoiler alert*

For starters, the plot in three lines: Jaden Smith and mama move to China. Chinese kids beat up Jaden. Jaden learns kung fu from Jackie Chan to try to beat the boys in a competition.

The Good

This shoulda been/wasn't my childhood. So jealous.

Cutie-patooties Jaden Smith and Han Wen Wen: they’re young, they’re in puppy love and they traipse around Beijing a la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.

Fiiiiiinally, a love story goes right for a black person, a Chinese person and, significantly, an interracial couple.

Jackie friggin’ Chan SHEDS A FEW TEARS: I haven’t seen all 80 million of his movies, but I’m pretty sure it’s not often Hollywood lets a ninja cry. Or gives his character a wife and kid. Think about this!!! That means he had SEX!!! That means Azn men aren’t sexless fighting machines!!! They have lives and histories and emotions …. like real humans!!! It’s, like, a breakthrough for Azns here!!! Get pumped!!!

Jaden Smith gets his behind whupped–twice: hey, not all Black men are thugs. Sometimes they’re victims. And Jaden’s not the annoying, whiny, helpless, silent victim, but the one who gets knocked down and gets back up.

Harry, the white guy who speaks Chinese: without making fun of it. Luke Carberry’s character blended perfectly into the landscape, without pretense of overtaking it or appearing awkwardly out of place.

In fact, all of the non-native Chinese characters navigated life in China well. While Taraji Henson was stunning in a cheongsam, there were no proclamations of, “Oh em gee, that’s so foreign and hawt!” like Carrie and the girls would have shrieked had they gone to Beijing instead of Abu Dhabi in Sex & The Racist–I mean, City.

Han Wen Wen’s DDR moment: yeah, it was awful, but, to be fair, she was imitating Gaga. If Azn men are almost always the fighters and terrorists in Hollywood, Azn women are almost always humourless wallflowers. It was good to see her fling off all reserve and groove to “Poker Face”.

Jaden Smith loves kung fu: he even wants to go back to China to master it. Jaden’s genuine appreciation and, more importantly, respect for the martial art was evident in every scene where he was training or competing.

The soundtrack: Jay Sean (hot Azn alert!) gets the opening song–“Do You Remember”–and Jaden/Wen Wen have their love montage to K’naan’s “Bang Bang”.

The Questionable

Karate is Japanese: kung fu is Chinese.

Do Azn actors cost more to hire?: is that why they’re left out of movies like Dragonball: Evolution and The Last Airbender, and why The Karate Kid had to use white people as extras in almost all of the scenes? I’ve never been to Beijing so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe more than half of Beijing is white.

Bullies got (no) back: no back story, that is. Sick and nasty skills, yes. But there was never an explanation for how the boys got started with Evil Kung Fu Master’s classes or why they were out to get Dre. We’re back to the sexless fighting machine stereotype again.

No foolin' around!

At least with Meiying’s parents, we could guess they didn’t like Dre ’cause they hate Black people. Speaking of Meiying’s folks …

Black-yellow animosity and racism: it’s important to show that racism occurs in all cultures but, in this movie, racism and ethnic tension function as a cutesy side story, devaluing the issues it raises.

And white kid Harry could be read as a character who’s meant to represent all white people’s supposed neutrality and goodwill in race issues. Dre hates China, the bullies essentially tell him to go home, Meiying awkwardly wants to touch Dre’s hair … and cute, little Harry’s just smilin’ and lovin’ through it all.

Nuh uh. White people can’t wipe their slate clean that easily.

So there it is. The good, the bad, the ugly. I liked the movie. Your thoughts?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “the karate kid? yeah i did.

  1. Tim

    re: Karate is Japanese: kung fu is Chinese.
    They actually even mentioned that in the dialogue of the movie… it is funny how the title doesn’t match what they’re using in the movie and the writers clearly know this.

    re: Do Azn actors cost more to hire?
    I don’t know about those other movies (I haven’t seen them and don’t feel like I can comment intelligently about them). I have been to Beijing and I think it’s fair that there’s white people as extras given that Jaden seems to have moved into an expat neighbourhood. If you watch closely the scenes with white extras are mostly at or very nearby his school or home “Beverly Hills Luxury Apartment”. When there’s scenes further away or not clearly in one of those two locations there’s very few or no white people. Granted most of the movie takes place in one of those two locations. Considering it seems like the setting they’re trying for is an expat community within Beijing I don’t think that’s unrealistic. If he’d say moved to some place like Pingyao, Chaozhou or Shaoshan I’d definitely agree with you; but, for an expat neighbourhood of Beijing, I think the makeup of extras in the movie is realistic and fair.

    As far as Meiyang’s parents go, I mostly thought that too; but, I also noticed they don’t seem to meet or dislike him until after the point he encourages Meiyang to skip a lesson and causes her to lose face by showing up late and clapping for her at the test. So, when watching it, I at least had the sense that there’s more at play there than just animosity/racism.

    Harry could be read that way, or he could be read as just someone who’s gone through the expat transition himself and remembers how hard it can be.

  2. Andrea

    Agreed with the ” sexless fighting machine stereotype”. as i was watching it, i was glad that they did put off a lot of stereotypes/misunderstandings/”i think i know all even though im white”, things like “there is no fortune cookies in China”, damn right, Chinese aint stupid, we don’t put little statements of encouragement in our cookies…. sorry, back to the point. However, the whole evil master wanting to kill everyone without a legit back up story was too much, i think. It seems like they created this antagonist just for the sake of creating one. plus the stereotype of the hard dictatorship was also reinforced, though, this stereotype may not be entirely false.

    • sally

      Andrea well since this is the remake (although i haven’t seen the older version) I’m pretty sure that they had the evil mastor in it, so it wasn’t really their choice to just un stereotype it. And the evil mastor didn’t want to kill everyone it was because he wanted his team to win in the tournament, that is why he taught them no mercy and stuff so that they could win and nothing else mattered. And he told that other dude in the semi finals to break his leg so that he could not fight in the final and would therefore have to forfeit. I’m sure you know that though, but the evil dude didn’t want to kill him he just wanted his team to win. I just watched this movie with no expectations and i was just amazed! my heart was racing in the last few moments and i think the love story was just soo cute. I thought Harry was a little out of place though and his Chinese was horrible not that it matters. Because he seemed like the only white in the first few scenes and it just seemed like he was just there for the movie, it just didn’t seem very realistic but other than that i really loved it. and missmsian you brought up some Really good points i enjoyed reading it.

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