While Edward criticized Aly for passing judgment on a film she hasn’t seen, I believe Aly does a great job in expressing her thoughts and reasoning of why she does not support The Karate Kid. She says, “My issues are based from my point-of-view as an Asian American, and my stake is mostly Asian American. I feel that the remake is a blatant disregard of Asian American issues and concerns. The most obvious fact is that they interchange Kung Fu and Karate.” She also points out the flaws of the original film– including her struggles with the Mr. Miyagi character who her father portrayed– and says that the remake simply rehashes many of the same themes which were problematic with the original 1984 film. Much more poignantly, she gives us insights to her father’s acceptance of the role and how much influence Pat Morita had in creating Mr Miyagi as an icon.
[FilmHustler]: How did you feel about you dad’s success as Mr. Miyagi?
I was embarrassed by my dad playing Mr. Miyagi in the height of his 80s’ popularity. I was constantly having problems with it as my own identity politics grew. Eventually I was able to separate my struggle and my dad’s struggle.
My dad fought fought tooth and nail for that role. He struggled and struggled as an actor. After Happy Days, he got his own TV series developed but it got canceled. He went into depression and came from the bottom when Karate Kid happened. He was ready for it and knew he had to work hard for it.
The role of Mr. Miyagi could easily have been a two dimensional character. But it was really the chemistry between Ralph Macchio and my dad that made it so special. A lot of those one-liners and jokes were very much my dad’s. He poured his heart and soul into that role.
While it may be interesting to discuss and debate the flaws of the Mr Miyagi character 25 years later, what cannot be denied are a few points:
- Pat Morita was an Asian American actor and the original Karate Kid made him a star in the true sense of the word, even garnering him an Oscar nomination for the role.
- The Mr. Miyagi character was an Asian American– and even included aspects of Asian American history like being a decorated veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
- The success of the original Karate Kid was groundbreaking because an Asian American was the hero of a film, showing for the first time that a film with an Asian American lead actor and character could be not only a true blockbuster, but a beloved one, as well.
Though the inevitable comparisons between Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi and Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han will likely be about the character’s lines and teaching styles, I wonder how many people will remember that former is Asian AMERICAN and that the latter is (essentially) Asian. For those of us who identify as Asian American (and not Asian from Asia), this happens to be a big difference, but one that many will likely be swept under the rug.
I don’t know how much traction her Facebook campaign to Boycott the Karate Kid Remake is going to garner, I admire Aly’s convictions and willingness to speak up and to share her personal reasoning for her stance. (For the record, I personally am NOT boycotting this film; I have not joined the above-mentioned FB page.)
Photo credit: FilmHustler