The Change Up (2011)

THE CHANGE UP (2011)Japanese law firm Kinkabe is buying out an Euro-American law firm, Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) mystically switches bodies with lawyer Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) and spews racism on stone-faced Japanese lawyers by imitating supposed Asian accent, while saying “everybody rich!”, “some sushi and sake bombs,” and “little karaoke for dessert”. There is no verbal protest against this racism from anyone in the law office including the Asians. Lockwood’s boss Flemming Steel says that his clothing makes him look like a Jew. Mitch (in Lockwood’s body) has a problem with this anti-Semitic comment but not his own previous anti-Japanese racism. So rich, arrogant ‘Japs’ are buying out America but a racist European male (Planko) is the good guy who is able to extract an additional $100 million from Kinkabe because he is convinced they are willing to spend more as they have not walked out of mediation. The female Asian mediator is named Erin Walsh, suggestive of non-Asian intermarriage. So here’s the Hollywood logic, since one guy is anti-Asian and the other is anti-Jewish, then there isn’t any anti-Asian racism from Jews. Because a referenced Jew is somehow the same as a direct verbal racist verbal insult. As the picture suggests, the main aim of the show is the repetitive hyper-hetero-sexualization of the Euro-American male. It does so however, by using ethnic and sexual minorities for laughs.

Update: A Screen Demon reviewer also adds that the Japanese are referred to as “Kamikaze Squids” [http://screendemon.com/2012/01/28/review-the-change-up-dvd/].

The following sites mention the anti-Semitic comment but not the anti-Asian comments.

The following sites mention both or only the anti-Asian comments.

One of the better reviews is from Daniel Carlson:

Mitch finds himself unable to fake his way through Dave’s job — which is reassuring, since Dave has a law degree — so he winds up jeopardizing a potential merger with a Japanese company. Yet Mitch isn’t just incompetent. He’s callous and cruel, and impossible to like. It’s not enough for him to be hung up on his own insecurities: Lucas and Moore make him racist and homophobic, as if being brash and offensive to all quadrants were the same thing as having a point of view. He uses the word “gay” as a pejorative dismissal and refers to the Japanese businessmen as “squids,” “Japs,” and “kamikaze pilots,” all (I believe) in one sentence. (Not to be ignored, Dave’s boss at one point tells him to change out of his blazer-and-slacks combo because he looked “like a Jew.”) He’s thoroughly off-putting, but then, this is what Lucas and Moore do. They ascribe awful character traits to a paper-thin character, make him smug beyond belief, and roll the dice that a handsome enough actor will be able to distract people from the fact that the character’s a sociopath. It worked for Bradley Cooper’s self-centered philanderer in The Hangover (“worked” here obviously meaning that their plan was executed, not that it was a good idea), and they return to the polluted well for The Change-Up.

Carlson, Daniel. 2011. The Change-Up Review: It’s a Nightmare, and Then There’s Boners In It Somehow. Pajiba. [http://www.pajiba.com/film_reviews/the-changeup-review-its-a-nightmare-and-then-theres-boners-in-it-somehow.php]

Hollywood Logic I

The original 1994 Red Dawn movie has the Soviet Union as the enemy of the U.S. The film was remade (propaganda must be repeated for effect) with the Chinese as new enemies. When this was thought to be not financially prudent for the studio, the film was edited to use North Koreans (since Koreans and Chinese are interchangeable in Hollywood‘s eyes). Andrew Leonard, a Salon staff writer uses the following logic:

Having not so long enjoyed the opportunity to sit in a sold-out Hangzhou theater watching “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I,” I can fully appreciate the global importance of the Chinese consumer market for the movie industry. And I can’t say that I hold any special fondness for exploitative schlock Hollywood films that attempt to cash in on nativist fears of foreign invasion. But somehow, I still feel like shedding a tear, or at least a deep sigh, at this unmistakable evidence of 21st century American inability to control the commanding heights of global pop culture. If we can’t reduce foreign cultures to menacing cartoon stereotypes then how dare we call ourselves the world’s preeminent superpower? ……

Some might argue that the decision to swap out Chinese invaders for North Koreans is all the proof we need that the invasion has already happened — and the Chinese won! But you won’t hear that accusation here: Chinese pageviews are far too important to the longterm profitability of Salon for me to engage in that kind of recklessness.

Leonard says that he does not fancy nativist views but then thinks that part of being a global power is to be able to cartoon-ify an ancient civilization with say 20% of the present world population. Then tongue-in-cheek, he states that Salon like Hollywood, requires Chinese viewers for profitability. To which one can ask, so what? After hundreds of years of worldwide American imperialism, what’s wrong with a bipolar world? Isn’t this clearly a sign of Leonard’s own anti-Chinese nativism?

Not to be outdone, someone with the pseudonym “AllahPundit” speaking of the same movie said,

Exit question one: Why didn’t the producers realize they’d run into this problem in the first place? Exit question two: Instead of changing the identity of the invaders, why not just recut the ending for foreign distribution to show China winning? Box office gold.

The answers are obvious: The producers are myopic, nativist Euro-Americans and if the Chinese ‘won’ the war, U.S. sales would be slim and the Euro-American nativist primary concern isn’t money but pro-American propaganda for the American public.

 

Sources:

AllahPundit, 2011. Good news: “Red Dawn” remake changes villains from China to North Korea [http://hotair.com/archives/2011/03/16/good-news-red-dawn-remake-changes-villains-from-china-to-north-korea]

Leonard, Andrew. 2011. Hollywood’s kowtow: “Red Dawn” dumps Chinese invaders. [http://www.salon.com/2011/03/16/red_dawn_replaces_chinese_with_north_koreans]

Ethnic Musings

The point of this site is to host my thoughts about ethnic issues. The present gaffes or outright stereotyping of basketball player Jeremy Lin provides amply evidence for the need to critique present day media use of language and imagery. I hope this site will allow for distillation of many ideas and hypotheses for a better understanding of how media ethnicity is developed and maintained as a hegemonic imperial definer.