Westernization of Eastern Culture

As I asked you guys during class weeks ago, how many Hollywood based movies can you name in which the main character is of Asian descent and does not have skills related to martial arts or hand to hand combat can you name? Google even proves this question is not easy to answer.  And while you may find an answer, these are exceptions to the rule.  This rule is akin to the techniques sued in American cinema in the early 1900s in the subjugation of African-Americans.  While of course a  direct comparison is a little extreme there are some similarities.  There are a few trends by filmmakers in which, consciously or not, Eastern culture is stereotyped or in some cases, viewed as inferior.

The stereotype begins with the portrayal of having Asian-Americans in a single minded role.  That is a practitioner of martial arts or other forms of combat. This is akin to the days where black actors were only allowed in mainstream roles should they play the part of a jester, signifying inferiority. While it’s tough to argue that most filmmakers have this prejudice there is still a state of mind within the industry that Asian-Americans can’t be “trusted” or aren’t “talented enough” for major roles. Roles that involve the conveying of messages with emotions, or words to expressions rather than fists or nun-chucks. In that regard it is nearly impossible to find an Asian actor who are given these roles.  Would Jackie Chan be Jackie Chan if there wasn’t a movie with him making acrobatic kicks and punching through walls?

Another technique is a literal Westernization of Eastern culture.  Intellectual properties that have originated in Asia have often found their way to the states.  However when Americans try to make their own adaptations of this material they completely bastardize it.  Avatar: The Last Airbender is a cartoon on Nicelodeon based on Chinese and Japanese mythology and legend.  However they have created a world full of different races with a variety of skin tones and colors.  The main character Aang, is from a  group of people based on Buddhist monks.  The other two main characters, a brother and sister, are form a tribe of people based on a variety of Eskimo cultures.  None of these characters are Anglo-Saxons or Anglo-Americans and yet the movie adaptation of this show has three white kids spearing heading the movie.


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