Mortal Kombat

One of my earliest recollections of a piece of material that contained Asian or Asian-American representations was the movie and video game “Mortal Kombat”. The movie was created after the games were a success and released on August 18, 1995. I was only five years old at the time of release but I was addicted to the video game before I watched the film about it. I do not think my parents knew how gory the video game actually was. The video game was based on Asian martial arts although it did have some Caucasian characters in it. The main character was named Liu Kang who was played by Robin Shou. Shou was born in Shang Hai and later moved to what is now considered modern day “Koreatown” in Los Angeles.

Liu Kang and other fighters must enter a martial arts tournament to save the world from Shang Tsung’s destruction that is played by Tokyo born Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Shou and Tagawa are the films main characters and both speak in a somewhat broken English. Shou plays a warrior who is full of heart and aspiration while Tagawa plays an evil sorcerer. When I was younger I never realized the effects of yellow peril apparent in this movie. Maybe that’s because I was very young and just loved the amount of action fights in the movie. The evil sorcerer who wields power of destruction to bring down man kind may be seen as a very critical yellow peril topic. Although the film does balance it out by having another Asian character that is nothing but good take him down. I never noticed how the broken English may have been leading to stereotypes for the American people. I was never one to criticize ones’ accent based on their heritage so it never crossed my mind growing up. I loved watching martial arts movies and playing video games that were influenced by Asian cultures of martial arts.

The video game itself contained many cultural icons that may be considered yellow peril as well. Most characters were Asian and the sound effects of the game would be considered that as well. It contained high pitch screams or grunts that people from America would consider an Asian voice even though all cultures have men with low to high pitch voices. The music was a fast upbeat fighting music but had Asian backgrounds in it as well with bells or chimes associated with their culture. The violence in the game was absolutely ridiculous and many controversies started from it. Video game companies had to put an age rating and warning on the label it was so bad. People may have begun to think that Martial arts from the Asian culture would just spread violence rather than how it is a harmonizing practice in the Eastern world.



One thought on “Mortal Kombat

  1. Hi Trent–Good description of Mortal Kombat and your recollections of the Asian/Asian American images. It’s not a problem that characters speak with accents, it only becomes problematic when the majority (or only) representations you see of a particular group is one that perpetuates particular stereotypes. How might you relate the represenations you experiences to more of the concepts from class?


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