Thursday, October 02, 2008
SORRY, JOYCE CAROL OATES. KUNG FU IS COOLER THAN BOXING
In a somewhat recent New York Review of Books article, Joyce Carol Oates wonders why boxing is no longer so popular. That's obvious, its ass has been beaten in the global marketplace by kung fu. Not that karate, tae kwan do, muay thai, and capoiera aren't also beautiful in their own way, but the Chinese created the martial arts movie and if someone in Hollywood is looking for a martial arts choreographer, it's probably going to be someone from a kung fu background. Kung fu movies led to Hollywood rip-offs, video games, and a whole new sport based on the plot of Enter the Dragon. Nowadays, you almost never see a John-Wayne-style slugfest in a movie. Even all-American Jason Bourne uses martial arts (it looked like krav maga to me).
Kung fu has become part of American culture. African-Americans were again ahead of the curve on this, as they found the martial arts movies' themes of self-improvement and struggle against the (Manchu) man congenial. In the days of the melting pot, it made sense for ethnic groups to show their pride by fighting by the same rules and in the same tradition. Nowadays, with the multicultural salad bowl, it's only right that each fighter compete in his own martial style. Or what the hell, why not an African-American sumo against a French capoeira mestre? That's the way the world is today. Let's face it, what's cooler to watch: a guy holding his hands in front of his face and jabbing occasionally, or a guy who can stand on one foot and kick somebody behind him with the other?
Some people think it's weird that Joyce Carol Oates loves boxing, but I see the appeal. Hey, sweaty, half-naked men moving around in a choreographed fashion, what's not to like? I just find kung fu more beautiful and (since I limit myself to fictional entertainment) less likely to cause irreversible brain damage.