Teacher Professor

June 2, 2011

Kung Fu Eyes

Filed under: Exceptionality issues — Teacher Professor @ 7:03 am

We just saw Kung Fu Panda 2 as a family and I have to admit I fell asleep during it.  Predictable?  Yes.  Silly?  Oh yes.  But my mother noticed something really quite disturbing- and the more I watched, the more I closed my eyes… See if you can spot it.

Here is Po.

and Monkey

and Crane

There’s Master Shifu

Even Mr. Goose

Then there’s Mantis- not as obvious, perhaps, but then, he’s angry

These are the Good Guys.  See anything they have in common?

Then, there are the Sexy Characters- on the side of Good, but with a little sex appeal thrown in.

There’s Viper…

And of course there’s Tigress- a “good” guy (small g),  but not exactly cuddly, warm, or funny.  Gorgeous- Exotic, definitely.  Sexy- oh my…

Now, the Bad Guys.

There’s Wolf Boss

There’s Gorilla

There’s Soothsayer, who while she’s not Bad, she’s not exactly Good, either.  And she works for Shen.  She’s sortof creepy and mysterious.

And of course, there’s Lord Shen- the Baddest Dude of All. (very hard to find a picture of Shen’s face, by the way)

…. do you see it yet?

The “Good Guys” all have round, open eyes, and most of the time, even have blue or green eyes. The mysterious, sexy characters both had exotically slanted eyes, but  they are definitely not Asian- they doesn’t have the epicanthal fold, which is the inner eye fold characteristic of Asians.  The “Bad Guys” all had dark eyes, with vaguely Asian casts to their eyes, and in the case of Lord Shen, very evident Asian eyes.  Even the “Asian Good Guys” had good ol’ American round blue eyes, like Master Shifu and even Mr. Goose.

And so, this light-hearted, family flick is reinforcing the stereotype that Asians are Scary!  Evil!  Out to take over the world!  Not to be trusted!  Baaaaad!  I’m certainly not the first to notice this: The Black Snob did back in 2008 for the first movie, as did Professor What If.  And certainly, the political, educational, and economic tensions have only increased between the United States and Asia since then.  Propoganda certainly looks cuter when there’s a chubby bear and Jack Black involved. But Angelina- I’m ashamed of you!

I’m not going to rant here about the perpetuation of stereotypes in Disney movies.  I leave that for the more serious scholars.  But I will introduce these concepts in my course this summer and let my students mull on the impact of stereotypes on children.  “It’s only a cartoon” is what most of them will say.  “Lighten up!

But you see, I can’t “lighten up”.  Because every time a person is denigrated for their race, their culture, the way they move, or the way they talk or interact, a little less humanity is taken away from all of us.  Because every time we allow ourselves to be scared of an Asian peacock, laugh at a person with mental retardation, or tease a child with autism, we are robbing ourselves- and our children- of understanding the richness and the diversity of beauty in the world.  And when we don’t see the beauty, we see the differences- while history and present day living shows us that those in power hurt those that are different.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.- Pastor Martin Niemoller

It may be “only a cartoon”, but it’s an incredibly scary movie.  And I’m speaking out.


  1. Love not only that you noticed this (I didn’t, but to be fair to myself, J barely made it through the opening credits of KFP1), but that you made such a cool connection and crafted it into such an engaging post. I so enjoy your blog!

    Comment by autismmommytherapist — June 2, 2011 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

    • I first noticed with Po- “Green eyes on a Panda? That’s weird!” I thought. And then it just kept going… until, REALLY?! REALLY?! Hmph…

      Comment by profmother — June 2, 2011 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for the link love to my Prof What if post! And GREAT points about the racist depictions of the characters… Have not seen the sequel yet, and not sure that I will as I know how hopping mad it will make me.

    Comment by Natalie Wilson — June 2, 2011 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

    • I was just AMAZED that so few people were writing about it- even then! And NO ONE now! Google is a great tool- and thank you for writing- as well as introducing me to a very cool blog! 🙂

      Comment by profmother — June 2, 2011 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

  3. Like you, I am unwilling to accept “it’s just a cartoon”. And I tend to look for hidden meaning in scripts, too. Any hints on how to get teens to understand this? How will you introduce this in your course? I think the tv show Glee is riddled with stereotypical personalities (caricatures). Every person is the epitome of what one would expect of….(an unbalanced coach) for example. What do you think of that show?

    Comment by Barbara — June 5, 2011 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

  4. […] past Saturday we attended Kung Fu Panda Two (a brilliant assessment of which was written up on Professor Mother’s Blog recently), and not only did I get to relax for seventy-five consecutive minutes (well, I did have […]

    Pingback by Gratitude Attitude « Autism Mommy-Therapist — June 7, 2011 @ 11:05 am | Reply

  5. I leave that for the more serious scholars. But I will introduce these concepts in my course this summer and let my students mull on the impact of stereotypes on children.com to post a comment to your blog.Hey , I stumbeld on to your site through Bing, you know I’ll be subscribing to your RSS feed Wiltshire Martial Arts today.

    Comment by DandridgeMAS — October 19, 2011 @ 1:15 pm | Reply

  6. My family is dressing up like kung fu panda characters for a party. I wanted to look more closely at the mantis picture and it took me to your blog. The way you presented it invited me to read it, so I did. Wow, what a stretch. I suppose if one goes looking for reasons to create conflict then they might see the eye shape connection and could possibly conclude racial depictions. Why search for such negativity when that was most definitely not the intention? Why overlook the great message that amazing people come in all shapes, sizes, and yes races which is depicted by the different animals. There is no secret ingredient, hard work makes you achieve greatness. These are the positive things sent forth in this movie. When drawing a cartoon face that has no race or gender slanted in eyes always depict angry. This has nothing to do with asian characterstics but the fact that the brow furrows and the eyes get smaller when someone is mean or plotting. It is the simplest way to visually convey emotion. As is such with every other emotion. Simple smiley faces use this logic all the time.To take this and connect it to asian characters seems to be looking for ways to fuel racial fueds. Your poem at the end is great. Being aware of things is important. However, Skewing messages to make them appear like negative or racial propaganda is what’s dangerous.

    Comment by lacy — October 22, 2012 @ 10:29 am | Reply

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    Comment by kung fu panda legends of awesomeness — January 7, 2016 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

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