The movie Rush hour 3 has been selected for the purpose of discussing the stereotypical representations of race, gender and sexuality in this film as well as the portrayal of women and minorities in film. Stereotypes are regarded as cliché representations of the people of a particular cultural background that can be found in the media and social environment. Based on this definition, several racial and gender stereotypes emerge as on watches the third Rush hour movie.
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The leads in the movie, Carter and Lee, are both from a racial minority group with Carter being African American and Lee being Asian. These main roles serve to perpetuate African American and Asian stereotypes by portraying the character of Carter as that of an ignorant, violent, incompetent man who is quick to anger and reacts irrationally. His character contrasts sharply with that of Lee who is depicted as a hardworking, responsible and honorable man who seems to be very serious. Asian characters are also stereotyped as unable to speak English properly even in the bloopers after the movie where Jackie Chan (Lee), constantly stumbles over words or mispronounces them. The choice of music is stereotypical of African American music preference. The ever frequent summation, by Carter, that all Asian look alike and live in Beijing is also an Asian stereotype present in the movie and a stereotypical representation of the African American as ignorant.
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Moreover, several gender stereotypes also emerge as one watches the movie; the male characters are the main cast, the heroes in the movie, while the female characters are very few and often take the role of the damsel in distress in need of saving from the powerful male. Some characters such as that of Soo Yung have the knowledge of martial arts and have the capacity to defend themselves, but these abilities are not fully explored in the action sequences that are ever present within the film.
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Apart from the Asian and African American stereotypes, French stereotypes present with the French taxi driver being portrayed as overly judgmental, unwelcoming to Americans, neurotic and highly impressionable. Arab stereotypes such as the assumption by Carter that the Arabs were terrorists when in fact, they were scientists. Hispanic name stereotypes present when Carter claims that a Hispanic woman, in the movie, knows a man named Pedro Morales Megonzales Morotto Malonso Megusto. White characters are also portrayed as overly cruel, mean, greedy and evil through the character of Commissaire Revi who is always trying to take credit for the success of others in their assignments.
There is an absence of women in leading roles throughout the movie with the few supportive roles played by women portraying them as helpless, passive and sometimes very irrational. For instance, the character of Genevieve is merely a tool, and her body just serves as a canvass upon which the names of the triad members are tattooed as per tradition. Female characters such as that of Genevieve and Soo yung often end up kidnapped and in need of rescue from Carter and Chan while those that do not end up kidnapped and are not part of developing the plot such as; the nun and George’s wife are depicted as incredibly passive and very irrational respectively.
Minority representations are achieved by the presence of two minority leads in the movie. These roles portray Asians as indifferent, aloof, and asexual with amazing intellect but no social ability while African Americans are portrayed as trouble makers, violators of social norms, incredibly ignorant through the presence of syntax errors in their speech as well as having an incredible lack of information about other cultures. Although there is an overwhelming presence of negative stereotypical cultural and gender representations in the movie, it manages to mask the implications of these racist tones by the incorporation of humor. Although some critics have argued that the humor only serves to validate racist stereotyping and encourages its presence in the media, it is my view that the movie seeks to draw attention to some of these preformed suppositions we have about the culture of other people and inform us on how mistaken and ignorant we have been. This is seen clearly when Carter just assumes that an Asian man he had been torturing to reveal information about the triad must speak Chinese but instead finds out that he is French, when Carter assumes that the Arabs were terrorists but learns that they were scientists and when he assumes that Lee would definitely have many relatives living in China town, since all Asians look the same, but this is not the case.
The movie intends to inform the audience that it is possible to move past these stereotypical ideas and view people as individuals with inimitable characteristics. That these unique characteristics make them capable of achieving their own form of self-identity which need not conform to a pre-existing one. This intent to inform is most discernible when Carter enjoys Chinese take-out while watching the Asian boy in the film Indiana jones while Lee enjoys eating fried chicken while watching an African documentary.