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Virtual OrientalismAsian Religions and American Popular Culture$
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Jane Iwamura

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738601.001.0001

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The Monk Goes Hollywood

The Monk Goes Hollywood

Kung Fu

Chapter:
(p.111) 4 The Monk Goes Hollywood
Source:
Virtual Orientalism
Author(s):

Jane Naomi Iwamura

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738601.003.0004

This chapter looks at the figure of Kwai Chang Caine and his Shaolin monk teachers in the popular 1970s TV series, Kung Fu. At this moment, a fictional Monk takes his place alongside representations of historical figures, making the hyperreal effect discussed in previous chapters complete. Kung Fu also marks the rise of a new generation into cultural power, whose attempts to selectively wed their parents’ ideals with their own counter-cultural values are clearly seen in America’s first “Eastern Western.” The racial politics of the show are specifically discussed, from the casting of David Carradine as the “half-Chinese, half-American” fugitive priest to the storylines that often feature minority characters. The way in which racial minorities are scripted into each episode reveals a potent commentary on contemporary race relations in the early 1970s. Ultimately, the show individualizes the politics of race and ideally configures a spiritual approach to social oppression.

Keywords:   Kung Fu, David Carradine, television, the Western, Shaolin, counterculture, hegemony, gender, China, race relations

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