Monday, June 4, 2012

Hollywood's Anti-Asian Tourette's

Hitting Chinese Is Fun.
I came across this article just today from the ever-Sino-xenophobic British news site, The Daily Mail, in which we learn that China is censoring around 15 minute long scene from the movie, Men In Black III. Funnily enough, I just saw this movie this past weekend and was in the process of writing a post about this very scene! Apparently, China's censors have taken exception to the scene for seemingly vastly different reasons than I have - that is if you choose to believe the spin from an explicitly hostile-to-East-Asians publication.

In the offending scene the two heroes - Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones - enter a typically Hollywood hate-inspired version of a Chinese restaurant (complete with disgusting hygiene, disgusting food sources, and dirty Chinese employees) and proceed to interrogate the restaurant's owner, who, it turns out happens to be an actual slimy alien, as opposed to an actual slimy Chinaman. Either way, he is a filthy and disgusting alien possessing none of the common values of decency, hygiene, and courage, that America holds dear. In fact, he possesses the same characteristics that America most often attributes to Asian people (especially men), so, even though he is an alien in disguise as an Asian, he actually possesses the disgusting qualities that Hollywood also insists Asians possess.

Almost as an inevitable consequence of this self-evident lack of humanity the Chinese, alien, Chinese Alien is violently interrogated by Tommy Lee Jones during which he is repeatedly hit about the head with an object and ridiculed, with Will Smith in the background making light of the whole mindless and casually violent episode with his cheerful quippiness. In the ensuing fight all of the "Chinese" employees turn out to be aliens and suffer an epic ass-whipping - one of whom is brutally beaten with a pan until he falls to ground dead, the side of his head caved in.

Of course, there is a kind of absurd violence that is characteristic of the whole Men In Black franchise - the fight scenes are filled with aliens who explode into a green goo or whose deaths are cartoonishly gruesome - but you won't find many (if any at all) with the sadistic brutality exhibited in the restaurant scene. American culture has a perverse love for this type of explicit depiction of cold, frenzied violence against Asian men and it may be the most common manner in which Asian men are represented in Americas's media. In fact, as this fight scene from the 1950's movie, The Manchurian Candidate, the depiction of sadistic violence against Asian men has been popular for decades.........

That scene was one of the first instances where I had seen any kind of depiction of an Asian man and the experience opened my eyes - especially that maniacal sadism at the end in which the Asian man lies defeated at Sinatra's feet receiving his brutal comeuppance for not knowing his place. What I came to realize is that America, as expressed through its culture, views itself as being locked in some kind of heroic conflict with Asia in which any and all means of violence are justified. This is as true now as it was in the 1950's, and has been true ever since the first Western warships sailed into Asian ports to claim Asian territories for themselves.

It should come as no surprise that the Asian-American experience in the 21st Century is often characterized by frenzied violence arising seemingly out of nowhere and manifesting as random acts of sadistic rage, yet paradoxically - and chillingly - there is a casualness about anti-Asian violence that is empowered by widespread social indifference. These types of depictions document, propagate, and perhaps even create, America's cultural  acceptance and maybe even desire for violence against Asian people.

In fact, I would suggest that this attitude is so ingrained in Americas's consciousness that it has become integral to the American identity, so much so that these American expressions of "two minutes hate" have a "Tourettes" quality about them. This example from the Men In Black is a clear case of this - the whole scene would have worked just as well without the sadistic violence, which seems to manifest out of nowhere, for no reason pertinent to the plot, and for no other reason than to express sadistic violence towards Asians yet occurring almost reflexively.

Of course, none of this would seem relevant if it weren't for the fact that violence towards Asians seems to be a normalized and an accepted mode of interaction for mainstream Americans with its East Asian minority. Racially biased bullying and violence towards Asian children in America's schools is extremely common and often goes unaddressed by school authorities. Mirroring widespread movie depictions of comically casual, sadistic, violence, some Asian kids are beaten for the fun of it. Then there's the hilarious practice of throwing old Asian people onto train tracks. Of course, there is the racially inflected harassment and  violence towards Asian merchants both in the inner cities and the suburbs as well as escalating degrees of harassment in the workplace. Everywhere you look the violence and harassment of Asian people is characterized by its casualness and often sheer sadistic enjoyment in its perpetration.

At this point a causative relationship between casual violence against Asians in the media and real life hasn't been determined (but who is investigating?), but there's little doubt that the absence of mainstream opposition suggests that America is comfortable, or even enjoys, the fantasy of inflicting sadistic violence on Asian men. Consider, for example, if the characters at the receiving end of this violence in the Men In Black movie had been African-American - my guess is that it wouldn't have made it passed the editing room.


  1. "who, it turns out happens to be an actual slimy alien, as opposed to an actual slimy Chinaman"

    That's an awesome quote, Ben!!! HAHAHA!

  2. very well said, however the question here is did you pay money to see the movie and perpetuating the cycle?

    or did you catch the free internet version and refused to give racist haolewood money?

  3. Hi bWW!



    No watched it at the cinema - if I had known about this scene I wouldn't have given them my money.

    1. let it be a lesson: don't give money to haolewood until you're 110% sure there's no anti-Asian racism in it.

      give money to the indie guys who are making pro-AM movies, not that "Chink" BS. there are plenty of sellouts in organizations like CAPE that take studio money.

      the studios take your money and laugh about you on the way to the bank.

  4. thank you for putting into one article what seems to be the done deal re: east asians. Now - what is being done to reverse this?

  5. What is being done to reverse this?
    Indie film makers who are actually pro-East Asian male, especially through large social media venues/platforms that have tremendous reach, such as YouTube and overseas K-Dramas making their way unto North American shores.

    1. It is hard to reverse this kind of culturally embedded racial thinking - I don;t believe that things will change through solely cultural means. There has to be political pressure as well as cultural pressure.