16 June, 2010

On the Recent Release of The Karate Kid

Having pursued acting for the past ten years, it's no secret that coming from an specific ethnicity has both advantages and disadvantages. As someone who's on a continuous journey on personal development, focusing on the negatives and disadvantages is considered counter-productive. However as a member of a specific ethnic community (Asian American descent) and as an actor, I've been exposed to many sides of the arguments in response to the recent release of the Karate Kid remake. I also would like to note that I've been practicing a traditional form of Chinese martial arts for the past 20 years, so I'm also familiar with the martial arts community.

Ethnicity and stereotypes issues aside, I personally chose NOT TO attend any paid screening of it because I'm more of a purist. I love original versions of films and television shows. Call me a hypocrite since I love seeing different versions of staged productions. Now having said all of that, in no way am I endorsing or supporting any boycotts of the film.

Those who support a boycott argue that supporting such a film sets identity issues back a generation or two because of the title itself. Though the title is still "The Karate Kid," the martial arts featured in the current version is Wushu, Kung Fu, or simply a form of Chinese martial arts. It is well known that Karate is a Japanese martial arts form. The concerns of those supporting the boycott is that the commercial success will encourage producers who are unaware or unconcerned with the distinctions to continue producing such works with little to no regard to the community they're portraying. Over the years, I've heard numerous comments or a variation of "Chinese, Vietnamese, they're all the same." Now here's a film with a title that'll reinforce, "Karate, kung fu, same thing."

For the past 10 years, I've been to more than my share of auditions thrown by aspiring producers and directors who's convinced that they "get it." They really believe that how they portray certain ethnic group is not only "realistic," but also "sensitive" to that specific community. There's an saying from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa:

Nothing about us, without us, is FOR us.

That said, expect no changes coming out of Hollywood. It's up to the community to bring forth solutions.

My biggest concern about this film is the target audience. This is aimed to the younger teen and pre-teens. The stereotype of the Asian male villian, though was told through hearsay was watered down, potentially holds a larger impact to the audience because they are younger and more impressionable.

As I stated earlier I will not pay to view this film not because of the concerns of those boycotting the film, but because as a performer and as a writer, I want to send a message to Hollywood that they're dropping the ball when it comes to creativity. Yes, I'm aware that there's really no such thing as a new story, but to recycle previously done plots, characters and titles is to me unacceptable. On the flip side of it, I would not encourage anyone to boycott viewing any sort of work without having seen the work.

So how does one stay true to their personal boycott, and yet be able to view a piece of work so that they could solidify their stance? Thank God for pirating. As much as I need to be paid for my work, I do think that there is a legitimate place for pirated items. This is one of them. What better way to avoid rewarding a producer financially and yet be able to view the piece to substantiate your argument and concerns?

So for those of you who still choose to support and/or honor a boycott of The Karate Kid, VIEW THE MOVIE FIRST

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