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Why People Are Upset Over Jackie Chan’s Role In “The Foreigner”

Although the martial arts legend is a beloved figure among Asian-Americans, some are slamming the upcoming film’s erasure of Vietnamese people.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Earlier this week, a trailer for STX Entertainment's forthcoming film The Foreigner starring Jackie Chan dropped online.

STX Entertainment

The action-thriller centers on a Vietnamese father who embarks on a mission of revenge after his daughter (Katie Leung) is killed in a terrorist bombing. It's a role much darker than any of the ones Chan previously played in his Hollywood career.

The movie is based on The Chinaman, a 1992 book by Stephen Leather.

While many people were excited to see Chan return to the big screen...

Our uncle Jackie Chan is giving us another movie called The Foreigner on October 13th. GIVE. THIS MAN. YOUR COIN.

yo i can't fuckin wait for this jackie chan movie

OK SO LIKE. JACKIE CHAN IS GOING FULL LIAM NEESON AND DOING A MOVIE WHERE HE FIGHTS THE FUCKIJG IRA???? HILARIOUS BUT ALSO AWESOME

...some were upset with the studio for casting Chan as a British expat from Vietnam.

STX Entertainment

In a still from the trailer, Chan's character is identified as "Ngoc Minh Quan," who is originally from Vietnam.

Jackie Chan plays a Vietnamese man in his new movie The Foreigner. Do you know how many levels of fucked up THAT an… https://t.co/7P6irdS28A

Jackie Chan is not Vietnamese nor does he understand the struggles of Vietnamese people!!!!!

@NoTotally WHAT?? Jackie Chan's supposed to be Vietnamese in "TheForeigner?? Crap, I can't be watchin' that w my Vi… https://t.co/yIJJ4VRWzj

How to wrap my head around this? #TheForeigner has Jackie Chan as a Vietnamese. Cue that time when Tzi Ma is in The… https://t.co/J4LMWp56gI

The debate rages on over how to employ ethnicity-specific casting when it comes to Asian and Asian-American characters.

Writers Linh Le (@linhtropy) and Jenn Fang (@reappropriate) pointed out the film's apparent erasure of South East Asians and its lack of cultural sensitivity.

Base level information: 1. China was one of Vietnam's colonizers. This is similar to whitewashing in terms of power dynamics.

3. The Fall of Saigon was in 1975. It's still fresh for most Viet ppl. I don't feel comfy w white ppl using this pain for entertainment.

Particularly since (and this is me speculating) the film reminds me of SE Asian veterans and trained fighters turned refugees of war.

If that is part of the Quan character's backstory, it would seem like the SE Asian-ness would be kind of important to address in casting.

Essentially, they argued that while The Foreigner centers on Vietnamese characters, it seems to have been made for the entertainment of non-Vietnamese viewers.

They also pointed out the fact that The Chinaman, the book on which the film is based, uses a racial slur as its title.

Also, the film is based on a book written by a non-Asian person but named an anti-Asian/anti-Chinese slur. Red flag right there.

This is based off the novel The Chinaman... I'm glad they didn't go with that title. https://t.co/RCjXyNZhmI

Jackie Chan's upcoming movie, The Foreigner, was adapted from Stephen Leather's 1992 novel The Chinaman. Yes, "The Chinaman". #jackiechan

BuzzFeed News has reached out to reps for Jackie Chan and STX Entertainment for comments.

Watch the trailer below.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

UPDATE

A spokesperson for the studio told BuzzFeed News that Chan's character is Chinese — not Vietnamese. No further detail about the identity of Chan's role was given.

Susan Cheng is an editorial assistant for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Susan Cheng at susan.cheng@buzzfeed.com.

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