The modern world is very diverse. Due to the influence of the process of globalization various cultures on our planet started to interact very closely, massive waves of migrations covered every country and the clash of customs, traditions, religions and lifestyles became inevitable. This caused many cultural conflicts. Some of them were successfully solved and today people of various origins are able to co-exist and co-operate. Even though cultural diversity has become a part of our everyday life, there are still issues the modern society has to face. One of them is the problem of racism, racial prejudices and stereotypes. This problem is powerful and big, it is able to influence the lives of different social groups in a very negative way. The world of film making could not stay out of this issue. Racial diversity, political correctness and tolerance entered cinematography and brought various rules. The article by Park et al. explores the effect racial jokes and stereotypes in the comedy film “Rush Hour 2” are able to make on the audience.
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The authors of the article notice that “Rush Hour 2” had a great deal of popularity when it was released. The comedy was watched and liked all around the world by people of all origins (Park et al 2006). The main feature of this movie is not only the fact that it presents a Black man and an Asian man as main characters, but that it also is filled with stereotypical racial humor directed at mocking people of African and Asian origin on the basis of the most common prejudices about these races.
The two main heroes, Lee and James, played by Jackie Chan and Chris Rock fit into the standard stereotypical images of their nations. James loves to party, tries to pick up every woman around and acts impulsively. Chan’s character is collected and serious, devoted to his work, good at kung fu and not interested in dating. These characters all the time exchange racial jokes and comments. For example, during a fight with a Chinese gang James hits Lee by accident and explains this stating that all Asians look the same (Rush Hour 2 2001). He also mentions that everyone in Hong Kong is two feet shorter than him. Lee responds with phrases like “I will slap you back to Africa” (Rush Hour 2 2001).
In the article by Park et al. it is noticed that all the stereotypes collected in the movie are designed to support the positive image of white people (2006). First of all, even though both main characters are detectives and heroes, saving lives, their masculinity is toned down. In the film Lee and James are portrayed only as comic characters, which cannot be taken seriously, in order not to ruin the good reputation of white men. Besides, the only roles given to white actors in “Rush Hour 2” are very small, yet white men always turn out to be on the leading positions, while the Asian and African men are working for their white bosses. The question raised in the article by Park et al. is exploring whether racial humor and remarks in a comedy film have the capacity to influence the audience’s prejudices and empower them.
To my mind, it does, especially due to the fact that neither of the main characters is offended by racial comments. This kind of humor and behavior is portrayed as appropriate (Park et al. 2006). Such attitude, enforced by the power of television, makes an impact on the masses and creates an illusion that harsh comments about one’s nation or origin are normal for every group and for each person.
Birnbaum, R. (Producer), & Ratner, B. (Director). (2001). Rush Hour 2 [Motion Picture]. United States, China: New Line Cinema.
Park, J. H., Gabbadon, N. G. & Chernin, A. R. (2006). Naturalizing Racial Differences through Comedy: Asian, Black and White Views on Racial Stereotypes in “Rush Hour 2”. Journal of Communication 56, 157-177.