Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Japanese as the villains

Lately I've been watching some Chinese movies on Netflix. More specifically, Ip Man (1&2), Fearless, The Chinese Connection, and the like. As someone who is sympathetic to Japan, for me it's kind of interesting and sad (though understandable) to see how so many Chinese movies portray Japanese (either as a group or individuals) as bad guys. I'm no apologist for the ruthless things the Japanese army did during World War II, but it's unfortunate that remembrance of those events seems to have become such a staple of Chinese movies.

One arch that seems to run through many or most of these films, especially if they are about war or martial arts, is that of the patriotic Chinese underdog beating overwhelming odds to defeat foreign powers who want to oppress and embarrass the Chinese, mostly just because the foreigners are assholes for some reason. This is based to some degree on historical fact, but I find it disheartening how rarely decent foreign characters appear in these movies. Often there are few foreigners in the films at all, but invariably there is always at least one Western guy who is a jerk and some Japanese guy who is a jerk. Sometimes it's a group of Japanese guys or the Japanese army.

I was actually surprised that in Fearless there is an honorable Japanese martial artist who actually is a pretty nice guy, as opposed to his counterpart, the spineless Japanese ambassador who only seems to care about money and shaming the Chinese.

Anyway, I was just thinking about this recently. It reminds me a lot of how some American movies about the Revolutionary War portray the British as cruel and barbaric, or how the stock accent for evil guys in Scifi movies is usually British. The main difference is that eventually the U.S. and Britain became pretty good allies. Maybe we need to give China another hundred years or two, but somehow I doubt they're going to go sweet on Japan any time soon.


  1. Wow. I was thinking many of those things you just mentioned about the Chinese movies. I agree about it all. I don't see it as a problem to me to watch those movies, but yes it is a bit sad that they keep reminding you of that past. I did love Shaolin Soccer though :D. Hopefully they will make more positive Kung Fu movies or Martial Arts movies in the future. I don't know about Legend of the Fist with Donnie Yen though, since it was first made by Bruce Lee, if I'm correct. And I have not seen the original, but could be it was also about Chinese/Japanese which the new one was so much about. But Donnie Yen is still master nowadays though :). Bruce is a god.

  2. There's one movie called Heroes of the East in which a Chinese martial artist marries a Japanese woman. It turns out that she is a practitioner of Karate. The two styles clash and it leads up to a duel between the Chinese martial artist and masters of various Japanese fighting styles.

    The movie is very different from most Kung Fu movies because each Martial Art is portrayed with respect and none of the duels end in death.
    There is however one moment when the Chinese martial artist criticizes the art of Ninjutsu, calling it "an ambush suited for bandits" or "murder" depending on which dub you watch and states that Chinese martial arts is about being open and fair. That could just be point of view.

    The movie is now on youtube if you want to check it out. But it's dub, and I don't know if you'd prefer sub.

  3. Interesting - thanks Anon. I'll have to check it out sometime.

  4. You're welcome! :)