Rush Hour, directed by Brett Ratner – one of Hollywood’s most successful directors – stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. It achieved commercial success and became the 7th top grossing film of 1998. The plot of the film centers on the kidnapping of the daughter of the Chinese Consol. Inspector Lee, played by Jackie Chan, is called to assist in the investigation because it is believed that the mysterious Crime Lord Juntao is behind the kidnapping. Lee finds himself paired with Detective James Carter of the Los Angeles Police Department, played by Chris Tucker. They gradually learn to work together and are able to reunite the family as well as discover the identity of Juntao. Rush Hour disrupts Hollywood’s racial hierarchy by removing white culture and focusing on Asian American and African American culture. The film is able to break down the boundaries between races and change hierarchies, but the enjoyment of numerous racial ideologies that are integrated within the dialogue and scenes, prove that the jokes influence the audience to reify their own racial beliefs. The film gained positive reviews about Tucker’s comedic performance and how Chan and Tucker work very well together. This fact supports my thesis of how race-based humor naturalizes racial differences, so the audience is more likely to focus on the “true” aspects of a stereotype rather than challenge the exaggerated portrayal. The positive reception proves that there is a paradox between racist representations and widespread approval and acceptance. The movie targets teenagers and adults because they have preconceived notions about different racial groups. Without these conceptions, the film would not be able to garner laughter but rather offense.
Rush Hour 2, directed by Brett Ratner – one of Hollywood’s most successful directors – stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. It received high box-office revenues and is considered one of the highest grossing martial arts films of all time. This sequel to the 1998 film Rush Hour follows Inspector Lee, played by Chan, and Los Angeles Police Detective James Carter, played by Tucker, and the adventures that they have. Carter is on vacation visiting Lee in Hong Kong, but they soon find themselves implicated in a scandal that involves counterfeit money, which brings them from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and then finally to Las Vegas. Although this movie is a comedic action film, it challenges typical Hollywood films by starring two minorities. While minorities have traditionally been casted in the roles of a sidekick or villain, Chan and Tucker are the main protagonists. By challenging the popular notion that the leading role features an individual from the dominant white race, Rush Hour 2 proposes the possibility of a cross-racial bonding between an Asian and an African American. Chan and Tucker both embody the stereotype of their particular race: Chan is a serious Asian man yet extremely skilled in Kung Fu, while Tucker is a tall African American who acts childish and seems very impulsive. To the everyday viewer, this movie serves as an entertaining comedy, but for such representations of race to be humorous, the audience must unconsciously accept or believe the stereotypes to be somewhat true. Thus, supporting my thesis that besides entertainment, the movie proves that race in comedy generalizes and influences people to accept racially defined characteristics. The movie targets teenagers and adults because it implies that a previous understanding of stereotypes is needed for the jokes to make sense and have their intended response, which is laughter.
This scholarly article, written by Sheng-mei Ma – professor at Michigan State University who specializes in Asian American studies and East-West comparative studies – documents the start of the phenomenon of pairing an Asian martial artist with an African American comedian. Ma provides a historical context to movies such as the Rush Hour series, which combine “yellow kung fu and black jokes” (241). He begins by noting that the genre of kung fu was introduced to the West by Bruce Lee. Although there was no prominence on black jokes in earlier kung fu films that starred Lee, The Last Dragon marks the development of racial depictions. In this film a young African American “bows, meditates, and wears the stereotypical Chinese dress” (240). The Asian Americans, on the other hand, “take on black dialect and body rhythm” (240). Ma considers the joining of yellow kung fu and black jokes a “marriage of convenience” for box office profit in which the public supports this collaboration. Films such as Rush Hour contain jokes that include the common prevailing notions of Asians and blacks in American mass media, which would render “yellow yellower and black blacker”. However, this “odd couple” is able to blend with each other, creating a racial hybridity. Rush Hour focuses on the relationship between the Asian and African American stars; therefore, the film offers the likelihood of cross-racial identification. The article provides film theorists and scholars with new understandings of race-based comedy. Ma’s writings reinforce my thesis for the buddy-cop genre has a history of interracial partnerships where race is explicitly shown. Thus, besides validating racial differences, such performances further hybridize today’s multicultural society.
This expository piece, written by LeiLani Nishime – Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Washington who specializes in multiracial and interracial studies, Asian American media representations, and Asian American sub cultural production – analyzes the history of Asian American and African American relations. The chapter explains how Rush Hour breaks the general conventions of a buddy-cop film and defies the norms of Hollywood film and generic character stereotype. She utilizes the film Rush Hour as an example for its portrayal of race relations with its removal of the white male character. By including Chan as well as Tucker, the film appeals to a wider range of audiences. The purpose is primarily to inform, but it also encourages the reader to examine certain films for comedic relief as well as social and cultural commentary. Rush Hour is a comedy yet it helps the audience to notice the concept of racial power. In most buddy-cop films, there is always someone in control and someone who is simply the follower. The white male will never be the “buddy” but with Chan and Tucker, they are almost equals. Nishime is most likely targeting Asian Americans because for an Asian American, America is characterized by both African American and Euro-American society. Rush Hour offers “a vision of cross-racial identification” and the idea of “hybrid identities” for there is a convergence of culture in music and film (48). This builds upon my thesis in that besides an acceptance of racially defined differences, race-based humor can provide a possible changing of racial hierarchy and the questioning of racial tolerance. Such a composition is more geared towards academia instead of garnering attention from the general public because it provides background information about Asian/Black relations, applies elevated language, and creates a possibility of a future state of relations.
This research article, written by Ji Hoon Park – Assistant Professor in Communication at Hope College who specializes in Asian stereotypes in the media- analyzes the ideological implications of racial stereotyping. The article, which is a result of sociology study, explains that though minorities are starring in more mainstream films, a racial hierarchy is still evident. The study included a focus group of whites, black, and Asians in order to analyze subtle reactions and responses to the film’s implicit stereotypes. Minorities continue to inhibit negative stereotypes but the contradiction that arises is that these stereotypical portrayals have commercial viability. Rush Hour 2 is an example of this incongruity between racism in comedy and widespread popularity. Park discusses how the genre of comedy allows for its audience to make an interpretation of racial jokes as harmless for stereotypes are an important element of comedy in that they help establish specific character classifications that are based on some truth that has been exaggerated. This supports my thesis because I contend that race-based humor influences the audience to not challenge the established assumptions of race. His study supports this belief since the focus group was able to laugh throughout the entire movie. Most participants did not find the humor personally offensive but they do acknowledge that the racial humor has the possibility of becoming prejudiced. In comedy, Park notes that a joke is conceived of as racist based on whether a minority is telling it or a white person. Another aspect that creates success for this film is that all races are objects of mockery and bias. Park’s conclusion is that racial stereotypes are problematic because “realism in the media encourages viewers to incorporate on-screen attitudes and beliefs into the real world” (172). The purpose is primarily to inform since the study examines how race is configured within the dialogue. Racial ideology is also embedded in Jackie Chan’s performance of the racial myth of an Asian man who excels in kung fu but is “culturally ignorant” as well as Chris Tucker personifying a “coon”. Furthermore, with the study, it becomes clear that the comedic portrayals of racial traits encourage participants to see the small truths in racial stereotypes rather than dispute these distortions. It does prompt the audience to consider that when viewing a comedy, critical analysis is usually absent and this can lead to believe that racial differences are natural and not culturally created. Park is targeting teenagers and adults because they are able to apply actuality to racial myths and hence find amusement in the satirical portrayals of race. The anticipated audience could also include scholars since this composition was published in the Journal of Communication and scholars will be more interested in learning about the responses of black, white, and Asian viewers and how they make sense of racial differences.