Representations of China in the Movie the Forbidden Kingdom

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  • Topic: Jet Li, Jackie Chan, The Forbidden Kingdom
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  • Published : April 15, 2012
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Representations of China in the Movie The Forbidden Kingdom
The Forbidden Kingdom (Rob Minkoff, 2008)[1] is an American martial arts adventure film co-starred by Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The film tells the story of a Boston boy Jason, who is a big kung fu fan, is given the mission, as a traveler, of returning the staff to the Monkey King so as to free him from the statue in which he has been trapped by the Jade Warlord. With the help of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Jason not only fulfills his mission in the end by defeating the Jade Warlord, but also masters kung fu and develops to a brave and responsible man.

The movie was successful and popular, attracting large audience[2], due to the reason, as far as I see it, that it meets the Western audience’s expectation of China. The movie is full of stereotypes of China and Chinese, reflecting the orientalism’s attitudes from the West, especially from America (both written and directed by Americans) in this case.

Orientalism, as studied in Edward Said’s book Orientalism (1978), is an academic term used to “describe a pervasive Western tradition, both academic and artistic, of prejudiced outsider interpretations of the East, shaped by the attitudes of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries”[3], later adopted by America after the WWⅡ.In such a man-made theory, East is depicted as a less-civilized, exotic, brutal and inferior entity to the West, and “…the West is not only defined as the diametrical opposite of the East, but also as its protector and its carer” (Khatib, 2006: 64). What’s more, to the West that the “…Orient is something to be feared or controlled…” (Khatib, 2006: 65). All these ideas of Orientalism can be sensed or found in the movie The Forbidden Kingdom, which makes this movie a advocator of American Orientalism towards China.

The movie begins with a dim, disorganized pawn shop owned by a shaky, weak and old Chinese man Hop, who clings tightly to his money and sells kung fu DVDs to Jason,...
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