Big Trouble in Little China –It is more than just a film “Big Trouble in Little China” starts with a white American character called Jack Burton, who delivers his cargo to a small town and during some free time plays card games in a Chinese market. After beating everyone at the game, he is proposed a bet by his friend Wang, and wins. Wang, not having enough cash to pay himself, convinced Jack to pick up his girlfriend Miao Yin at the airport, promising after which he would pay what he owed. Unexpectedly, a Chinatown gang called the Lords of Death abducts Miao, because of her green eyes.
She becomes essential to being able to revive an ancient Chinese sorcerer Lo Pan and bring him back to the flesh. This marks the beginning of the adventure to rescue Miao and destroy Lo Pan’s plan down in Little China.  From the plot summary, “Bid Trouble in Little China” is an entertaining film, however, its value reaches beyond entertainment; it provides invaluable insights into cultural stereotypes, in both Chinese-American culture and mainstream American culture. To start up, let us have an overview of Asian Americans.
The Asian experience in the United States has been affected by two most important factors: race and culture. Given that Asian immigrants had a different appearance, it was not difficult to categorize, identify and stereotype them, or to treat them differently. Two assumptions by the mainstream Americans apply to this ethnic minority group. First, Asians are homogenous; in other words, all of them have a similar look, rationality and behavior. Second, there is a close connection between Asian immigrants and their home country. The way Asians are treated in America is closely tied to these two assumptions.
They are assumed to be familiar with Asian ancestry, the ancestral culture and the language.  For pervasive social influence of film, it plays an important role representing cultural issues. As film scholars are concerned with the influence cinema has in the cultural imaginary, an immense body of scholarships was born to systematically list and analyze stereotypical images. As the study of stereotypes develops over the decades, we are able to follow the important issues especially the connection between film and culture. Wiegman mentioned that stereotypes are related to the haracterization, narrative, setting, costume and cosmetics of the film. He also wrote that in film, the stereotype serves as a form to present non-white culture and characters as constant and one-dimensional.  Specifically, “Big Trouble in Little China” indicates a number of typical stereotypes of Chinese-Americans, which is a vivid representation of mainstream American’s understanding of Chinese-Americans. As remarked by Ebert, “Big Trouble in Little China” is a straightforward production that emerges from Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu, with little apologies and the usual stereotypes. 4] In the film, the Lords of Death was under the control of Lo Pan, in a secret underground world in Chinatown, which was consistent with Chinatown mystery and danger. Other than that, the effeminate image of Lo Pan agreed with Fu-Manchu’s expression of masculinity and his image of a master criminal. Moreover, Chinese kung fu and supernatural power spread out the film, such as the use of magic by Thunder, Lightening and Rain, and the use of kung fu in every fighting scene.
The film created an image that “the visible part of Chinatown is just the tip of the iceberg – that once you penetrate the facade of chop-suey parlors and laundries, there is a vast subterranean network of temples and dungeons, caverns and throne rooms and torture chambers” Furthermore, “China is here, Mr Burton! ” And the reference to China by the film characters stereotypically indicated the close tie that Chinese-Americans held to their home country. Also, the relationship between Wang and Miao connected San Francisco and Beijing, which reflected on how American-Chinese were connected to their home country.
Apart from the cliches of Chinese-Americans, Jack’s ignorance of Chinese culture and traditions constantly came to the screen, and Jack did not seem to comprehend even after hearing Wang and Egg explain. This was an obvious stereotype that mainstream Americans did not know the culture of the Chinese immigrants; Chinatown was a myth to them. This ignorance of Chinese culture demonstrated the fact that “Asian-Americans are are among the oldest immigrant groups to come to the West Coast of the United States, they have remained as one of the least understood. ”
Moreover, Jack, a representative of white Americans, carried outstanding bravery and masculinity, and was equipped with guns during the fight in the bank, which represented western masculinity and adoption of modern technologies. He was never afraid of threats or danger, and always was the first and most active to take risks. Also, he was the only person that used a gun during the fight, which contrasted with the Chinese who lived on Kung fu and magic. It was an evident stereotype that white Americans relied considerably on modern technology while Chinese preferred ancient magic and martial arts.
However, according to Sirota, Jack barely had any strategy in the progress to win the fight, which was not an accident or a shame but the way he was and what he took pride in. It was not difficult to tell this from him repetitively quoting “it’s all in the reflexes. ” The image of Jack intentionally showed the ridiculous hubris of Americans.  Further more, the image of Jack urged mainstream Americans to be long-term considerate, and to wake up from the idealistic dreams of “it’s all in the reflexes. ” Also, the film, by using the stereotypes of mainstream Americans culture, suggested mainstream America learn about Chinese-American culture.
This way, the awkwardness caused by ignorance of the culture and lack of consideration would have been avoided. Big Trouble in Little China was directed by John Carpenter, which turned out a window of how mainstream Americans perceived Chinese immigrants over 1980s. The film reinforced the stereotypes by assigning film characters personalities, costumes and behavior. Wang was very knowledgeable of traditions and the history of Lo Pan, in addition to using Chinese when talking to his friends, which referred to the stereotype that Chinese-Americans were familiar with their language and ancestral culture.
Also the costumes of Thunder, Lightening and Rain, and Lo Pan and Miao in the wedding had a drastic reinforcement on Chinese traditional culture. Additionally, Jack’s bravery and adventurousness were good reinforcements of mainstream American culture. Moreover, the film employed Chinese mythology, ancient magic, and martial arts throughout it. The story of Lo Pan, the dark magic of the Lords of Death and the Kung-Fu scenes were good examples. Overall, the film was entirely surrounded by an air of Chinese culture. It carried tremendous cultural elements.
The traditional Chinese wedding scene, and maximized use of martial arts instead of firearms clearly were good instances. “Big Trouble in Little China” reinforced the stereotypes of Chinese-Americans and white Americans and magnified the cultural elements. By portraying Jack and Gracie, two mainstream Americans that tried to penetrate Chinese culture, the film demonstrated mainstream American’s stereotypical understanding of Chinese-American Culture. This showed the fact that Asian-Americans had remained least understood, although they had been to the West Coast of the United States long before.
Moreover, the wide use of stereotypes of Chinese-Americans produced a strong sense of Chinese culture, which justified the fact that “Big Trouble in Little China” was a Chinese film. The use of stereotypes of Chinese-Americans brought up Chinese-American culture to the public, and provided mainstream Americans insights into this ethnic minority group, which gave them knowledge of this specific culture and encouraged them to learn about it. Furthermore, it is important to investigate into the way that “Big Trouble in Little China” dealt with stereotypes and assimilation.
Counter-type is the stereotype that plays an positive role in the society. The use of counter-type in a film would create a popular image, and thereafter encourages people to live up to the image and to fulfill proper social roles. When the public highly recognizes values and patterns in a certain behavior, people will tend to adopt these patterns to obtain public acknowledgment. For example, in the film, the relationship stability between Wang and Miao, which went through fire and water, could be seen as a counter-type of the values of marriage, which praised the loyalty to the beloved.
In brief, proper use of counter-types in film has a positive social influence on people. However, negative stereotypes would increase discrimination rather than help assimilation. “Stereotyping has been shown to be a powerful and pervasive element affecting group behavior. ” “For example, stereotyping creates self-fulfilling prophecies that change the behavior of members of minority groups, affect performance in job-related activities, impair academic performance, and in some cases lower self-esteem. Generally speaking, stereotyping is one of the factors that have been related to discrimination against ethnic minorities.  In “Big Trouble in Little China”, the effeminate appearance and behavioral traits of Lo Pan expressed a negative image of Asian men, which was not true. Also, the gang rivalries and darkness of Chinatown were the stereotypical perception of real world Chinatown by mainstream Americans. The film stressed and magnified these stereotypes, which were non-scientific generalizations of Chinese-American Culture. 12] These stereotypes not only led to the fact that the film inaccurately expressed Chinese culture, but also conveyed a misconception that every Chinese person in the United States was like what the film described. These negative and inaccurate stereotypes not only did not help assimilation, but also conveyed misunderstanding between Chinese-Americans and mainstream Americans, which could potentially lead to discrimination. In conclusion, “Big Trouble in Little China” served as a film that was concerned with stereotypes and assimilation of Chinese-Americans.
The film stressed the culture of Chinese-Americans and integrated itself with various stereotypes of both Chinese-Americans and white Americans. It was not only an entertainment that made every one laugh, but also had its value in addressing the cultural issues that Chinese-Americans were faced with. This film introduced the topic of stereotypes and assimilation within ethnic minority groups in the United States, and led us to ponder the cause-effect relationship between stereotypes and assimilation of a foreign ethnic minority group.
At last, “Big Trouble in Little China” showed us the important role that film plays in presenting stereotypes and cultural assimilation. Bibliography: Barnard, Tomius J. , “Plot Summary for Big Trouble in Little China,” , October 2009. Beeman, Mark and Volk, Robert W. , “Challenging Ethnic Stereotypes: A Classroom Exercise”,Teaching Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul. , 1996), pp. 299-304. Ebert, Roger, “Big Trouble in Little China,” , October 2009. Helm, Will, “Misunderstood Masterpieces: Big Trouble In Little China,” , Ocober 2009.
Kitano, Harry H. L. , “Asian-Americans: The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Pilipinos, and Southeast Asians”, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 454, America as a Multicultural Society (Mar. , 1981), pp. 125-138. Sirota, David, “Big Trouble in Little America,” , October 2009. Wiegman, Robin, Chapt. 17 Race, ethnicity & film. The Oxford guide to film studies. pp. 158-168. ———————–  Tomius J. Barnard, “Plot Summary for Big Trouble in Little China,” , October 2009.  Harry H. L.
Kitano, “Asian-Americans: The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Pilipinos, and Southeast Asians”, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 454, America as a Multicultural Society (Mar. , 1981), pp. 125-138.  Robin Weigman, Chapt. 17 Race, ethnicity & film. The Oxford guide to film studies. pp. 158-168.  Roger Ebert, “Big Trouble in Little China,” , October 2009  Ibid.  David Sirota, “Big Trouble in Little America,” , October 2009  Harry H. L. Kitano, “Asian-Americans: The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans,
Pilipinos, and Southeast Asians”, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 454, America as a Multicultural Society (Mar. , 1981), pp. 125-138.  David Sirota, “Big Trouble in Little America,” , October 2009  Will Helm, “Misunderstood Masterpieces: Big Trouble In Little China,” , Ocober 2009.  Roger Ebert, “Big Trouble in Little China,” , October 2009.  Mark Beeman and Robert W. Volk, “Challenging Ethnic Stereotypes: A Classroom Exercise”,Teaching Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul. , 1996), pp. 299-304.  Ibid.