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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton December 20, 2014

Wax on, wax off: mediatized Asian masculinity through Hollywood martial arts films

Mie Hiramoto
From the journal Text & Talk


This paper examines the mediatization of Asian masculinity in representative Hollywood martial arts films to expose the essentialism on which such films rely. Asian martial arts films are able to tap into viewers’ familiarity with idealized images of Asian masculinity; such familiarity is an essential part of the pleasure provided by these films and hence of their economic success. This study focuses on non-Asian (that is, western) protagonists’ appropriation of Asian masculinity because it succinctly encapsulates precisely how western hegemonies co-opt and commodify Asian-ness for their own purposes. Such appropriation is a use of intertextuality that not only allows western viewers to easily access a simplified model of Asian masculinity, but also allows them to reference earlier works to further facilitate the mediation and mediatization of Asian masculinity. This is a process which continues to Other and exoticizes Asian identities, even as it ostensibly carves out a niche for Asian bodies and identities in the institution of the film industry.


My sincere thanks go to the journal’s editor and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions and comments on the earlier version of this paper. I am also greatly indebted to Laurie Durand, Benjamin George, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, Cherise Teo, and Lionel Wee for their invaluable assistance and encouragement at various stages of this project. Last but not least, I’d like to thank the following three parties: Tan Teck Heng for his initial involvement with this project and his continuous support; Susan Ang for her generosity of sharing many of her movie collections with me for this project; Margarita Diaz of Sony Pictures Entertainment for giving me permission to include the artwork used in this paper.


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Published Online: 2014-12-20
Published in Print: 2015-1-1

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