(Jaaaackkiieee gots jokes as he post a hipsterized pic of himself on Facebook)
By Airec Sype.
Action comedian actor director singer Jack-of-all-trades Jackie Chan celebrated his 61st birthday earlier this month. So I have to mention it; how can I have a blog that celebrates my Asian American weirdness without talking about one of my heroes JACKIE CHAN!!!
Growing up in America, there were not a lot of Asian heroes for this cute little Asian baby, who was lucky enough to be born in this great nation (MURRICA!), to look up to. Most of the heroes I (or we) had were from the relic VHS tapes that translated kung-fu movies onto giant heavy television boxes.
When I talk to some Asians and Asian-Americans about Jackie Chan, I get the conciseness that you either like him or hate him. Some Asians dislike Jackie Chan (I know this is going to get annoying but it doesn’t feel right just using his last name; there is more power and status if I just keep saying Jackie Chan) because they don’t see him as a martial artist despite him having training in multiple of different styles. But then they’re Asians, like I, who loves this man.
The legacy of Jackie Chan is his ability to combine comedy and action. There is a sense of authenticity to his work because he does almost all of his stunts himself. Uproxx has compiled a list of his notable injuries. This is because he was originally a stunt man in old martial arts films. In fact, he got hit in the face by Bruce Lee himself in a failed attempt of a sneak attack.
However, behind all the action and laughter, Jackie Chan also has a sensitive side. During a press-conference, Jackie Chan reveals how he wants to do a movie about love. Knowing that this might not be the Jackie Chan we all know, he said, “I love to produce movie which I love where I can speak what I want to speak and do what I want to do. It is not all about making money.”
Getting hit in the face by Lee and breaking almost every bone in his body all in the effort of entertaining us, that is the man behind the legend. My favorite movie will probably be Legend of the Drunken Master. That movie has the perfect combination of comedy, action and Asian boys with daddy problems . . . Oh did I forget to mention that this man can SING!!!
Oh yeah, this man got it all.
Let’s go back to this idea of Asian or Asian American heroes. Growing up there really wasn’t much for us to look up to besides these kung-fu flying, fist punching, ass-kicking action heroes. Growing up in the 90’s, the idea of an Asian American in the mainstream media was not feasible.
I’m not saying that there wasn’t any Asian heroes when I was growing up, I just didn’t know about them nor did I have the mature mental capacity to appreciate them (not saying I’m mature, I still act like a frat-boy at times). I was introduced to Yo-Yo Ma while watching an episode of PBS Arthur, but I didn’t really know who that was. There was obviously Michelle Kwan who can literally fly on ice, but I didn’t like ice skating as a kid.
Growing up, I wanted an Asian Arnold, or an Asian James Bond. These were men that I could look up to! I didn’t want the Asian henchmen in the Rambo films who gets gunned down by starving POW to be my heroes. Fu*K those guys, they were WEAK! Or I wanted a swavey Asian guy who can come into a room and swoop the girl, not the creepy four eyed Japanese pervert that the white hero was saving her from.
That is one of the things I was envious of as a kid, these white little boys had someone they could look up to; they were able to picture themselves as the hero and mainstream media reenforced that dream. So if I followed what the 90’s told me, I was bound to be a fu*king four-eyed henchmen who is perving on white woman while getting my ass-kicked by some white guy or just some nerdy sidekick who does all the math homework and robot stuff.
Blacks and Latinos were also lucky. Of course black kids had . . . well they had the whole NBA and hip-hop industry in the 90s to look up to . . . and Malcolm X and MLK. I’m not a complete racist here. And Latinos had Oscar Dela Hoya and Ricky Martin (before he came out). But there I was, thinking that my future can do no better than Mr. Miyagi. And he wasn’t even the main hero of the Karate Kid! THE KARATE KID WASN’T EVEN ASIAN! Thankfully Community fixed that.
I guess that’s why when Al from City Guys first appeared, I hung onto that character. He was one of the first Asian looking males on TV that I saw swooping girls off their feet. The same feeling of inspiration arose when I first saw John Cho in American Pie. Despite their small roles in the show or movies, their presence on the show gave me a light of hope that an Asian American male like me could one day exist in a mainstream American world where my role isn’t the nerdy foreign exchange student . . . and that I too can get cute white girls (but that’s not the point of this conversation.)
Of course now when I look at the Asian American, or just Asian in general, heroes of today, I can think of Jerry Yang, the creator of Yahoo!, or Margret Cho, or the Chinese who left their homeland and built the railroads/gold mines. I can think of people like that who risked their lives or did amazing feats instead of solely relying on action stars like Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa or any other yellow-skinned karate master. But lets not forget those two, they’re pretty badass. Oh, and that Asian kid from 21 and over, his chill-to-pull ratio was 5:5.
That is probably why when shows like Selfie, which has an Asian American male as a lead actor, gets cancelled I feel a little hurt inside. Or actions like replacing the Asian characters in movies like 21 and Dragonball: Evolution hurts the young Asian American community. I feel for the lost of an easy hero for young Asian boys to look up to, to picture themselves as a possible version of their future. Some say that the media is evil, but it was the quickest way for young minority boys like I to picture themselves in the American world. School and books and Asian doctors, pff. That didn’t matter growing up in the rough side of Visalia. Movies was our salvation for a potential better life. In a way, that sense of living vicariously through a fictional character allowed us to be hopeful of becoming a real American. It’s what the media told us.
Despite the lack of Asian males in the media, we still have mix-martial art fighters. But sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s fighting when two Asians are going at it.
Now looking at it in hindsight, we kinda all had a hero with us growing up. I didn’t realize it until I reached college and was able to think like an “adult.” My father kinda is a hero. Any minority kid can call their father a hero, a man who risk his life leaving his old country for a better life for his family, a man who slaves away at work so his children can have an American life/education. Well unless your father was a bastard, then this doesn’t apply to you.
Sure my dad was an SOB at times, but he was there for me and had my back. He didn’t know kung-fu or built robots, but he got his yellow ass over here and fertilized me on the great soil of America so that I didn’t have to make shoes for Nike.
I guess heroes are everywhere, it just took me a little while to realize it. If you’re Asian American, try to be a hero for the kids of tomorrow. Oh and I love you Jackie Chan.