How To Be a Bad Asian: I Love Big Trouble in Little China

Life is hard enough as an Asian. Not all of us can get perfect SAT  scores, graduate from medical school or trick out a Honda Civic. The  pressure to embrace our culture remains but sometimes, we just don’t  want to. How To Be A Bad Asian is an ongoing series of personal essays  by the 8Asians writers about what sets us apart from the API community,  how we deal with the stereotypes that we put upon ourselves and why we  all can’t be that perfect Asian. It’s time to be bad.

We often write on 8asians about Asian Americans being portrayed in American media as being “other/non-American” and being exoticized.   Just seeing Asian Americans portrayed as regular and normal Americans in commercials can seem like a major triumph.   Movies like Big Trouble in Little China seems to fall in the category of movies that reinforce stereotypes of Asian Americans as weird,mystical, exotic, and un-American. But in this regard I am a bad Asian – I love Big Trouble in Little China!

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Sure it has stereotypical elements like Chinese wizards with magical powers, wise yet inscrutable old Chinese men, martial arts masters, and Chinatown gang wars.  It has a white hero, Jack Burton (played by Kurt Russell), who appears to come to the rescue of nonwhite people in distress.   But appearances aren’t always as it seems, as the white character Jack Burton is a arrogant bumbler who needs his competent Asian sidekick, played by Dennis Dun, to help him out.   Some of the Asian leads don’t have accents (not being “other”), and best yet, the “great white father” character doesn’t get the Asian girl.  The Asian guy gets the Asian girl, and there is even another Asian guy who is set to connect with a white girl.  I get the sense that John Carpenter, who created the film, was trying to subvert stereotypical notions.

But that is all so serious.  Big Trouble in Little China’s tongue-in-cheek attitude and general goofy fun makes it pleasure to watch.  I’m not surprised that it has become a cult classic.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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