I love how Jackie Chan doesn’t love America

The YouTube channel “Every Frame a Painting” is one of the most thoughtful, enjoyable, and well-produced film series on the internet, and the creator did a great piece on Jackie Chan. The man behind the series does a compelling job of mapping out why exactly Chan is such a uniquely compelling martial artist, physical performer, and comedian. Having gotten started on a Jackie Chan kick, I devoured a lot of his movies on Netflix and YouTube for the first time since I was a teenager.

Having just watched a lot of his movies recently, I’m convinced you could make a solid case for Chan being one of the best performers of the 20th century. There are few other actors who marry such a wide variety of skills–from peak physical condition to perfect comic timing–to a commitment to pleasing the audience above all else.

And a golden throat, too:

However, in my quest to watch Jackie Chan doing and saying everything possible, I found this slew of headlines from 2013 that I’d missed the first time around:

Jackie Chan Thinks America Is “The Most Corrupt Nation In The World”

Speaking on a television show in Hong Kong, Chan had some harsh words for the good ol’ U. S. of A. Chan was discussing recent progress China has made…when he called America “the most corrupt [country] in the world.” Chan then continues, blaming America for the world’s troubles and spouting some seriously nationalistic nonsense (Gawker)

The anti-Americanism of Jackie Chan

Chan’s comments…do reflect a certain strain of anti-Americanism that is particular to some elements of China. [Y]ou might naturally be wondering how Chan can square his criticism of the United States with his long embrace of the American film market. How, after all, could he spend so much time making movies in “the most corrupt country in the world”? (WaPo)

Why Did Jackie Chan Body-Slam America?

There are notable differences between PSY’s gaffe and Chan’s, however. PSY dropped his buzzbomb over a decade ago as a relative unknown, driven by youthful passion and the prevailing attitudes in his native country. Chan hardly has that excuse. He’s experienced enough to know that words have power (WSJ)

So, obviously, I love this.

The brief clip is worth watching, too, if only for seeing Jackie Chan speak about America in a tone he usually reserves for onscreen drug smugglers.

My enjoyment is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that he’s voicing his sweet, sweet anti-Americanism from a nationalist position, rather than a more libertarian one (in the traditional, non-Cato sense of the word). Still, there are precious few joys in this world these days. Seeing vacuous media jagoffs wail and keen over someone’s inexplicable, nay, shocking lack of love for America is one of them. How often does America get body-slammed in the media?

However, the revelation that a foreigner feels anything other than unalloyed love for the world’s hegemon prompts something like revulsion over their lack of gratitude. “How could he spend so much time making movies in ‘the most corrupt country in the world’,” in the words of the Washington Post. What kind of a so-called crooked country ever rewarded celebrities? Q.E.D., Commies.

It’s this background that lead to the American reception of his most recent movie, which Chan claims will be his last, Chinese Zodiac (a.k.a. CZ 12). The film is too “nationalist” for American reviewers, who take issue with the temerity of its hero:

Instead of seeking a magic sword, or Nazi gold, as in the previous films, Chan’s band of adventurers is on a quest to steal 12 ancient Chinese statues that were taken by Anglo-French forces during the Opium Wars of the 1840s.

The plot of the 1994 film The Legend of Drunken Master involves Jackie Chan’s character stopping the British from stealing Chinese treasures, too. It’s amazing what a difference a strategic pivot makes. However, as far as nationalist statements go, isn’t seeking the return of your country’s stolen historical treasures a pretty mild one? I’d be more willing to concede that there’s something unsavory about this instinct if these same critics hadn’t spent hundreds of thousands of words arguing that American Sniper needed to be appreciated as an apolitical work. Classic America–anything it does is neutral, anyone who doesn’t love it is a deranged ideologue.

Play us out, Jackie.

Advertisements