Since our group has decided to focus on cultural appropriation in cartoons as our topic for the podcast, this week’s blog post will explore cultural appropriation in the movie franchise Kung Fu Panda by DreamWorks. With the recent release of Kung Fu Panda 3 and the overwhelming success the franchise has faced, many people wondered, “Why didn’t the Chinese think of this?”
According to Huang Rui Lian, a sports marketing manager, the theme of “kung fu panda” is ubiquitous in Chinese folklore (Fan). Even though some people blame the oppressive regime for the dearth of creativity in the arts, money manager Wang Huamin claims it is simpler than that. “’Chinese are giving up the traditional culture. No one cares about what we have. ‘” Wang Huamin goes on to explain how Chinese directors do not “cherish Chinese culture,” for there has been an overwhelming preference for Western culture in the media industry.
In class, we talked extensively about the negative consequences of cultural appropriation. However, in this case, Wang supports the Americans. Wang Huamin believes that by allowing foreigners to appropriate aspects of Chinese culture, it will revive the Chinese people’s appreciation for their culture. In the words of Wang, “Chinese people will realize that the best things we have are the things we already have” (Fan).
The accurate portrayal of Chinese culture may be attributed to DreamWorks consulting Chinese “experts” (Fan). Oftentimes, people condemn foreigners on their appropriation of Asian culture. Yet, a professor of animation at the Beijing Movie Institute points out that if the Chinese were to have created Kung Fu Panda, the panda would have been molded by their ideology. The panda would have been too perfect. Thus, sometimes a foreigner’s take on Chinese culture may be enlightening, rather than offensive. As a Chinese college student claimed after watching the movie, “’Spectators always see a chess game better than the players’”(Fan).
Therefore, I believe cultural appropriation at times is justified, for it offers a new perspective on the culture. Especially in the case of the Chinese culture, which has been treated with apathy by the new generation, cultural appropriation is able to perpetuate fading cultures and revive appreciation for them.
Fan, Maureen. “‘Kung Fu Panda’ Hits A Sore Spot in China.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 12 July 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071103281.html>.