Giving Jackie Chan’s “Control” Comment A Second Chance

jackie-chanSo, by this point, most people have heard about Jackie Chan’s comment on the “Chinese need[ing] to be controlled.”

I watched the actual clip of Jackie Chan speaking at the Boao Forum (the part English media outlets have been reporting on starts at 0:50) and as someone who speaks Mandarin, I was concerned about the difference between watching the original clip and reading online English translations.

I was initially exposed to the issue through an online English news source, which said that Jackie Chan stated, “I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not. I’m really confused now. If there is too much freedom, like the way Hong Kong is today, it is very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic. I’m beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled.”

When I first read his comment in English, I was pretty outraged. Then I watched the original clip and didn’t find myself nearly as upset. I suspect this has to do with the fact that when information is translated, it is often read as an individual and isolated quote, making it easier to sensationalize.

There are definitely problems with what he said, especially in light of his privilege as a movie star who probably moves about his surroundings freer than the average Chinese citizen. As well, Jackie Chan is internationally known and anything he says publicly, unfortunately, can and will be read as representative of the Chinese people. Oh, and let’s not forget Jackie Chan’s glorification of the United States as a place where people know how to dispose of their gum, as opposed to China, where people don’t, and therefore need to be “controlled” (see 1:30 into last link, which is in Mandarin).

This whole Jackie Chan situation makes me wonder how information gets consumed and digested by racialized second/third/fourth-generation people who may not speak the language. More specifically, I am thinking about information and knowledge that has been translated from its original language into English. There are lots of diasporic people who are trying to learn about their racialized histories and reclaim their families’ stories who can only do so through listening to stories, watching movies and reading in English. I wonder how much of the complexities are lost, as the histories and stories are translated into the supposed “universal” language.

Or am I giving Jackie Chan too much leeway and credit? Gah, probably.

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About Teresa

Teresa is a queer Chinese/Taiwanese daughter, sister, friend and lover. She has spent half of her life in Taiwan and the other half in Canada. She currently resides in Toronto, where she spends her time making zines, writing stories and working at a feminist bookstore.
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