Contemporary Korean Cinema and Society
2013 June 19
When countries (such as the United States of America) try to create a film featuring a different culture, clashes are inevitable. One of the most prominent features in such films is a stereotype. The best example for seeing stereotypes in cinema would be watching Rush Hour 3. Rush Hour 3, a film starring a Chinese man and an African American man, is the third of its series. While it’s plot and dialogue may seem funny, most of the humor is derived from blatant stereotypes of different cultures. Rush Hour 3 is a film that forces stereotypes of other cultures to be the primary source of humor. American cinema comfortably uses racism and stereotypes because it is a good source of selling tickets and making money.
Rush Hour 3 is a perfect starting point when looking at stereotypes in films. The plot of the film is almost identical to the plot of the first Rush Hour; after an attempted assassination attempt on a Chinese ambassador, Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) fly to Paris to try and protect a woman with secrets about the French Triad. This is not a drama, nor is it a crime-thriller; the main genre of the film is a buddy-cop comedy. The comedy itself is mainly derived from the dialogue between the two protagonists, an African American cop and a Chinese detective.
There are several scenes in the film, which identify the blatant use of stereotypes as humor. A classic comedy scene in America is a skit called “Who’s on First”. This is a comedy skit that was performed by Abbott and Costello. To briefly describe the skit, Abbott is trying to tell Costello who the different members on the baseball team are, but the names of the players cause confusion for Costello. The first baseman, for example, is named Who. When Costello wants to know “Who’s on First”, the answer is “Who”. Rush Hour 3 takes this concept to a very racist level by having a similar scene within a dojo. Carter tries to find out information from the Sensei, yet has a challenge with names since the names sound meaningless. Some of the quotes include “I am Yu”, “Yu is blind”, and “He is Mi, and I am Yu”. This type of humor is a perfect example of some of the blatant racism within the film.
There are three other distinct portions of the film, highlighting racist and stereotypical humor. The first came directly from Chris Tucker’s character. Detective Carter says and acts as stereotypically black as possible, so much so that it seems hard to believe that such a person could even exist in real life. From the countless times he says “Damn” in a heavy drawl, to the racist jokes he makes towards Inspector Lee, to the overt attention drawn to him looking at women, the character of James Carter is the entire package and more.
Jackie Chan’s character is not much better (or worse) in terms of clear stereotyping. Jackie Chan plays a small and submissive man who is much quieter than his African American counterpart. He tries to be “hip” throughout the film, either by making jokes, or using American slang. This plays off as humorous, again, thanks to stereotyping.
Arguably, one of the notable scenes is during an interrogation, which requires the assistance of a French nun. James Carter decides to swear at a prisoner using dumbed-down words, such as “the n-word, the b-word, and the h-word”.
Understanding what this film entails requires further research into Western culture with culturally different themes. There are a few readings from the course reader that help explain some of the stereotypes that are seen in many western films, including Rush Hour 3. Hemant Shah talks about four primary characters that are seen in these films; the characters include Yellow Peril, Dragon Lady, Charlie Chan, and Lotus Blossom. He notes “In Hollywood, Asian men (distinctions among Asians of