posted by missmsian
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?
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.
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”.
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.
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?