Balls of Fury: Ching Chong racism or just a funny movie?

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Updated 3:30 PM 8/4/2007 with info on Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

I’m a hard person to please – and I have to admit, that while I thought Balls of Fury could be some disaster waiting to happen from what I had heard – the trailers and commercials I saw really didn’t make me gasp and scream “Damn” – like Rush Hour 3 did.

So I saw Balls of Fury this weekend and bottom line – it was a pretty funny for a spoof movie (by and of itself) and here are a few reasons why:

  • Not one joke from someone who wasn’t Asian (or even Asian that I can recall) about an Asian person’s dick size, speech patterns, driving, etc. Nothing. Nada. Zilcho.
  • Multiple, multiple “whitey” jokes. So many in fact I think the white people in the theater where I saw it were like “Umm…how many more whitey jokes are there going to be?”.
  • James Hong is one funny mofo – and he has some of the best dialogue there is in the movie and usually at the expense of the non-Asian cast – and he plays a large part in the movie – and he does it without broken “me no speakie english” dialogue.
  • Maggie Q – I don’t know why people like columnist Nathan Lee featured in LA weekly/Village Voice (who refers to Maggie Q’s role as being “A pair of breasts” and “A pair of breasts that know kung fu”) – just seem to think she’s there for sexual gratification. Sure she’s attractive, but does that mean she’s nothing more than eye candy for the screen? Apparently Nathan Lee must think so (but then I’d gather he thinks women are just there to please him and do things like wash his feet from his comments). But if you see the movie she’s anything but that and her role is actually quite funny and she does a great job playing it – and the one time a character looks/refers to her character as a purely sexual geisha type object, he ends up getting James Hong’s chopsticks clutching his nads. And again – no broken “me no speakie english” dialogue.
  • Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and Enter the Dragon spoofs – There’s really not much else to say except that it’s great when movies like these get so much spoof action (and they also spoofed some 007 too).
  • Jason Scott Lee – While he plays a small part in the film – he added some great comedy.
  • Masi Oka – Nice cameo.
  • Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa – Plays the funny/deadpan bodyguard – also check out the interview he did on KHNL, why he did the movie, and the vetting of the script on Asians and being offensive.
  • Ton O Asians – not that you can’t have a movie with lots of Asian people in it and it still can’t be a racist crap ass flick, but this one had a lot of Asian characters in it and they added to the movie.

So what about Walken playing his Triad role? 

This wasn’t a Yellow Face character but a spoof on a kooky Triad character gone mad where it was supposed to be funny because it was a pale looking white guy – it was the paleness and the whiteness that was funny – and again no mock Asian accent either – just Walken doing his schtick.

This was a movie that was done in the same vein as the Scary Movies, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, etc.,  except it had a huge Asian cast in it and lampooned Asian movies – and I thought that was pretty cool.

The fact though that the movie exists in a world where there is a huge choice of global Asian cinema and varied roles for Asian actors – it still begs the question of why there aren’t more roles out there for Asian-Americans in U.S movies.

Even with this movie – and even though it’s a spoof based on Enter The Dragon – it still is done largely within the confines of the limited images and characters and representations of Asian-Americans that we’ve seen in typical larger budget Hollywood movies – some martial arts, kung fu, the sensei, Chinese takeout/dinner, the Asian woman and white man – and because there are not as many movies out there to the contrary – the images are only intensified, and while there is nothing wrong with those images of and by themselves – alone and with nothing to counter them, they can help to create a one dimensional view of Asian-Americans – which can have many other consequences.

3 responses to “Balls of Fury: Ching Chong racism or just a funny movie?

  1. Pingback: links for 2007-09-06 at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  2. cool review. i was excited about this movie and then sad when i heard the reviews. so maybe i will see it now. (i followed the link from racialicious)

  3. Robert Ben Garant

    Thank you, for this article.
    I’ve talked to a lot of people about this very topic. I think that a lot of critics, both Asian and non-Asian, (mostly non-Asian, oddly) went into this film assuming it would be racist, and interpreted everything in the film as exactly that, without really even thinking about it.

    I would go so far as to say, after much discussion – and lot of people think that you cannot even give an Asian actor a funny line in a film…
    is the Asian actor character funny because he’s smart? That’s racist.
    Are they funny because they’re being respectful to their family? Racist.
    Are they funny and disciplined? Racist.
    Funny and… a cook? Work in a restaurant? Sexy? Dumb? All racist.

    I even asked one critic if he’d ever seen an Asian actor doing a joke in a film that he DIDN’T think was racist. He said that there were Korean soaps with funny “three’s company” type humor that he didn’t think was racist.
    But — Jackie Chan? Shephen Chow? Racist.
    ?
    I think that there’s still a lot of humor on TV and in films that’s racist, both quietly and overtly — way too much considering what century we’re in.
    I also think that Asians get the worst of it. I think that some Asian stereotypes are still considered okay on TV and in films, for some reason. and that’s horrible.
    But — if people screamsracism any time any actor does anything, ANYTHING, that’s at all race specific in a comedy… That’s not going to help the situation.
    People in film should be portrayed as the way people really are. The funniest stuff to me, and the stuff that makes the races understand each other, is observational stuff that rings true:
    It’s about human nature, our strengths, our weaknesses… And a lot of that is tied to race – to who we are, the way we are raised — our cultural identity.

    And I’m sorry — but people in comedy… are usually a little dumb, and they’re supposed to be a little funny.
    There’s a difference between making jokes that are racist, and jokes about racism.
    And political correctness doesn’t help anybody.
    and — it’s just not funny.

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