Wednesday, August 17, 2011
ARE MARTIAL ARTS MOVIES PERPETUATING AN ASIAN STEREOTYPE?
Sooooo, for 20 years, the big question I have asked every single Asian and Asian American film and TV star/filmmaker that I’ve interviewed (150+ of a veritable "Who’s Who" in Asian martial arts and non-martial arts cinema from the 1960s through today) is...
Are martial arts movies simply perpetuating an Asian (or Asian American) stereotype?
Before I reveal the answers let’s take a quick look at a few interesting statistics on Asian martial arts cinema and the beginning of Chinese film.
Although film arrived in China just a few months after the December 28, 1895 world’s first public screening of Auguste & Louis Lumiere’s film show (ten short movies lasting 20 minutes) held in Paris, France (some of these shorts were showed in Shanghai on August 11, 1896), it wasn’t until 1905 when the first movie production by Chinese filmmakers was shot in China.
As it turns out, China’s first film was also the first martial arts movie ever made, a 3-reel production of Ding Jun Shan (Ding Jun Mountain) that starred the legendary Beijing opera actor Tan Xin-pei, performing famous acrobatic action sequences and traditional martial arts influenced poses in front of a camera on the grounds of Feng Tai Photography Studio.
According to the book, The Ultimate Guide to the Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s, the 1970s was the most important decade in the history of martial arts cinema. Of the approximately 2200 martial arts movies made worldwide during that decade, 1245 were Chinese, 288 were Japanese, and 244 were Korean. In case you’re wondering America only made 69 during the 1970s. Between 1905 and 1969, Hong Kong made about 200 kung fu films. As a rough guestamate, between 1905 and today, worldwide about 17,000 martial arts movies have been cumulatively shot in roughly 50 countries. It’s a very pervasive genre.
Back to the question, when I asked the 150+ Asian stars/filmmakers, “Are martial arts movies simply perpetuating an Asian (or Asian American) stereotype?” Two actors were on the fence and the rest blurted, “No!”
In my next blog I’ll share the predominant reasons for their answers.
But to the SDAFF blog readers and staff now:
Are martial arts movies simply perpetuating an Asian (or Asian American) stereotype? If yes, why? If no, why?
Posted by Dr. Craig D. Reid at 11:23 AM