By Kin-Yan Szeto
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 20, no. 2 (Fall 2008), pp. 229-260
This essay examines how the transnational martial arts filmmaker and star Jackie Chan embodies and deploys a “cosmopolitical perspective” in his work. A key part of Chan’s cosmopolitical perspective and film practice is his comic displacement of rigid notions of identity, an approach that capitalizes upon his transnational “always both inside and outside” status and his style of action, which is at times active, passive, ambiguous, subversive, creative, and disarmingly playful in relation to hegemonic power and ideologies. Chan’s cosmopolitical consciousness and his comic displacement of hegemonic paradigms have been shaped by factors including the history of colonialism, Chinese nationalism, the geopolitics of race, masculinity and power, and the experiences of transnational filmmaking in global capitalism. His martial comedian personae have crossed various ethnic / national boundaries, both blending ideological sensibilities and playfully critiquing them, sometimes playing one off against the other. Through comedy, physicality, and parody, his cinema of displacement engages with these ideological discourses and practices. As exemplified by the work of Jackie Chan, the cosmopolitical defies the limits of identity based upon national entities and related issues of belonging and responsibility, and raises questions of how to balance the conflicting loyalties of always being a political minority, whether on a regional or transnational basis.