In Other News of Superfluity,

March 1st, 2010 § 1 comment

I live in a world preparing to release upon hordes palpitating with sweaty-palmed anticipation this summer a remake of The Tap Dance Karate Kid starring Will Smith’s son: set in China, despite the misleading titular martial art, with Chinese kids instead of Cobra Kai, and featuring Jackie Chan in the role formerly made famous by Pat “Happy Days” Morita. A small step for Jackie, but surely a giant step for race relations, especially with our brothers from another sensei. Plus ça change…

At this point all members of the target audience wishing to protest but it might be good, whose parents weren’t even having unprotected sex yet (aw, it was the early ’80s. Who wasn’t having unprotected sex?) when the Ralph Macchio original came out, should shut up, grasshopper and listen to their elders, who were all in third grade when this movie made them go and take karate classes with a bearded man named Sensei Stan at their local YMCA, which they can remember being driven to on Saturday mornings pointless with rain. Or maybe they did this because their parents hadn’t let them see this movie they’d heard about from all their friends. They can remember the smell of the rain and the smell of the station wagon backseat and the smell of the gym when they walked in, chilly in an overstarched gi fastened by the orange belt a few months of katas and faithful attendance had earned them, which kept coming undone even though they’d knotted it tightly as they could. The gym smelled of bare feet and folding mats and this smell would come to mind again in middle school, when the conductor foisted on the orchestra an arrangement of “Glory of Love” that had been made safe, and so outdated, by the scant span of years elapsed since the series’ second movie had come out. This would have been another movie their parents hadn’t let them see, but by seventh grade they knew better than to think it was anything but cheesy, and perhaps even slightly racist.

I think the best description of the remake I have read is “Jaden Smith’s ‘What I Did On My Summer Vacation’ video diary.” But really, how much worse than Daniel-san, with his atrocious accent and sullen ’80s earnestness, can he be? Suffer just a few minutes of the original with an eye free from nostalgia, and it is clear time has been no kinder to the film than it deserves. While the change from white to black protagonist is a salutary sign, shots of temples and mountaintop poses prove the yellow mysticism remains rancid as ever. It occurred to me, watching the trailer, that looking good in lingerie is, alas, to feminists what martial arts are to Asians: that stereotype we’re ashamed of but can’t quite shake, and all secretly want to own.

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