Reappraising the Kung Fu comedy film: from the protestant ethnic to hysterical resistance

Conference paper


White, L. 2022. Reappraising the Kung Fu comedy film: from the protestant ethnic to hysterical resistance. 7th International Martial Arts Studies Conference: Martial Arts, Tradition and Globalisation. Universities of Lausanne and Geneva 29 Jun - 02 Jul 2022
TypeConference paper
TitleReappraising the Kung Fu comedy film: from the protestant ethnic to hysterical resistance
AuthorsWhite, L.
Abstract

Writers on Hong Kong’s martial arts cinema have tended to read the appearance of the kung fu comedy film in 1978 (especially with the Jackie Chan’s genre-defining Drunken Master) as marking a retreat from the ‘militancy’ and rebellion of figures such as Bruce Lee, tied as these were to the martial arts as expressions of cultural nationalism. The kung fu comedy is thus often framed as reflecting social shifts in Hong Kong from the turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s to a conformist neoliberal consumerism in which politics ‘disappears’ as older forms of colonialism gave way to globalised capitalism. Such a moment might mark a profound change in the ways that traditional martial arts signify. I argue, however, that with its intensively corporeal performance style the kung fu comedy also continued to foster ‘resistance’, although this was transformed from the more familiar, explicitly political strategies of what Rey Chow has called the ‘protestant ethnic’ to a carnivalesque mode I characterise as ‘hysterical resistance’. In doing so, the kung fu comedy played a part in the cultural formation of new, specifically Hong Kong identities and postcolonial, postnationalist subjectivities. These were made possible by new transnational connections but were nonetheless squarely local in their orientation. Such postnationalist (global/local) cultural identities in Hong Kong, and the ways that images of the traditions of the martial arts may be bound with them, have become newly significant in the context of the rise of recent pro-democracy movements there, and the Chinese Communist Party’s clampdown on these.

KeywordsHong Kong; kung fu comedy films ; hysteria; resistance; body cultures; martial arts
Sustainable Development Goals3 Good health and well-being
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
LanguageEnglish
Conference7th International Martial Arts Studies Conference: Martial Arts, Tradition and Globalisation
Publication dates
Online19 Sep 2022
Publication process dates
Completed29 Jun 2022
Deposited19 Feb 2024
Output statusPublished
Web address (URL)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWbzWcECzYk
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