When I think of Jackie Chan, I usually think of a Kung Fu fighting Harold Lloyd. Jackie’s the bumbler, the well-intentioned but clumsy “nice guy” who’s just happened to save the day. Off the screen (from the interviews I’ve seen and read and the out take footage at the end of his movies), Jackie seems to be just as nice and well-intentioned as the characters he’s played.
Up until recently, I hadn’t put much thought into how Jackie might be as a father. I guess I just assumed he would be Bob Ho from The Spy Next Door.
As it turns out, he isn’t. According to Channel News Asia, Jackie is donating his entire fortune to charity when he dies. His son, Jaycee, is not getting a dime. His rationale: “If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money.”
But it’s not this decision that has me wondering about Jackie: The Father (as opposed to Jackie: The Comedian, The Actor, The Kung Fu Star). It’s his reaction when his son Jaycee called concerned about his rumored death. I acknowledge that Jaycee may be exaggerating a tad and that Jackie’s reaction is not atypical for the older generation of Chinese parents. But still, I imagined Jackie being a little more “progressive” than that. According to Channel News Asia, Jaycee said, “My dad scolded me ‘Do you wish I were dead?’ That was when I knew it was all false.”
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Russell Peters’ “Beat Your Children” monologue.
It’s brilliant! It’s funny because as the child of Asian immigrants, I can totally relate (I laugh now but it was terrible at the time) AND as an Asian parent, I have already caught myself more times than I would like whipping the same criticisms my parents beat me with __ “An 80 is a good score, if that’s the best you can do…”, “The teacher wrote you are creative and imaginative. Imagine all you can achieve in this world if you stopped daydreaming and focused on acing those tests…” and so on. Chinese parents are masters of the art of the backhanded compliment.
Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, Wolf Dad, Xiao Baiyou, and Eagle Dad, He Liesheng, have been elected the 21st Century ambassadors of modern Chinese parenting by the news media-at-large. Happily, at each instance of this so called ” traditional Asian parenting” there have been as large a chorus of Asian outcry as there have been American ones.
It’s been half a year since Duo Duo’s famous run around the park, dressed in only his underwear, on a cold and snowy winter’s morning. His father, the Eagle Dad, had forced him into the cold and then posted his run on YouTube because he wanted “to show that if a child can accept this kind of extreme education when they are young, they can overcome any difficulties the future might hold.” He says, “I did it because I want Duo Duo to be strong.”
The video of little Duo Duo’s wintry run might not have seen any controversy had there been a Golden Harvest or Shaw Brothers logo in front of it. Parents who spent their adolescent years in the 80s will remember a young Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin enduring a battery of imaginative (sometimes fantastical) but harsh training regiments on his path to become a “Shaolin Master Killer”.
Chose any Jackie’s early films and you will see the same ludicrously rough lessons. But while this form of training makes for great drama and fantastical action sequences, parents need to know that these movies are make believe and you cannot hope to apply the same tough love tactics they depict and expect to garner the same results in reality.
By Kung Fu movie standards, I am spoiling my children. But I like to think that they work as hard as they play. I also like to think that given the advantages I didn’t have, they will be more successful than I have been and able to do more good. I don’t believe I coddle my children. Instead I think in the amount of time I spend with them, I model positive problem solving strategies and social skills for them, while telling them they are the most cherished and important part of my life. I don’t have to be the high paid executive or the biggest star as long as I ensure they can be.
In homage to the movie that inspired the title of this post, here’s a trailer for Jackie Chan’s Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (It includes clips of Jackie’s character learning and training in Kung Fu):