Who went to see The Hangover this weekend? Show of hands please . . .
Okay, so, what did you think of that weird Asian guy?
I just paid cash money to see this movie, so I can tell you a bit about it, including the unaccountably weird Asian guy. I thought that overall it was pretty funny, and for those of you who haven't seen it, I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I say the following.
The Hangover is about four American men (all white guys) who go to Vegas for a sort of stag night, since once of them is about to get married. They rent a super-expensive hotel suite and wake up to the sight of a live tiger, a chicken, and a totally trashed suite. One of the four, Doug, is missing.
The three remaining guys head out and eventually find their lost car. As they moan and groan through their hangovers, missing teeth and so on, they continue to wonder where Doug could've gone, until they hear someone pounding and yelling in the trunk.
"Doug!" they all shout, but when they open the trunk, out leaps a naked Asian man! He has a tire iron in his hands, and some weird, Kung Fu-like noises are coming out of his mouth. He quickly flattens the three white guys with some jujitsu or karate or something, then runs off into the distance.
None of the guys can remember who this Asian man might've been in the wilderness of the night before. The weird Asian guy shows up later (I won't give away how and why), and he acts even more weird.
Mr. Chow (played by Ken Jeong -- you might remember him as a quirky doctor in Knocked Up) soon demonstrates that he's cruel, arrogant, and probably gay, which is also supposed to be funny; as reaction shots of the white guys help us see, Mr. Chow is just headscratchingly off the wall. Mr. Chow laughs repeatedly at one of the white guys, taunting him as "the fat one." This laughter is clearly supposed to be extra-humiliating and emasculating, given its source -- a man who's not only bizarre, short and gay, but also Asian (the sexualized racism here is further cemented at one point, when he grabs his crotch and invites the white guys to do something with "my little Chinese balls!").
So, I'm wondering, just what the hell is Mr. Chow doing in this movie? I mean, what purpose does it serve to make the one Asian character so weird? No one else in the movie is this flatout bizarre, not even Mike Tyson, who shows up in a cameo.
I think that for one thing, this movie is made for a target audience that's assumed to be white. Mr. Chow seems meant to serve as a bit of spice for the blandly white characters at the movie's center. As usual, the few, stereotypical minor roles for black actors also serve this purpose, including a street-talkin' black drug dealer and a large, bossy, black female cop (who shouts "Not up in here!" and so on). However, while these black roles are stereotypical, they're not also over-the-top, just-plain weird, like the role of Mr. Chow.
I'm reminded of the unaccountably weird Asian characters in a KFC ad that I posted about recently. In both that commercial and this movie, the mood is supposed to be bouncy and funny, and that mood is meant to be somehow enhanced by these zany, cartoonish Asian men.
Is this zany-Asian-character thing a trend in corporate entertainment? Maybe it's just an old standby. In either case, I don't like it.
As a good, happy citizen-consumer, I'm supposed to brush aside any negative, "PC" feelings brought on by such dehumanizing, racist portrayals, and just yuck it up along with the other white people. But I just can't do that anymore.
Because of Mr. Chow, I left this movie with a bad taste in my mouth.
And finally, on top of that, why couldn't they make at least one of the four lead roles a non-white guy? Would that be so implausible?
In case you're interested and haven't seen a trailer for The Hangover yet, here ya go (there's also a "restricted" version, with more glimpses of Mr. Chow, here).