More information has come out since the Monster Hunter movie was officially yanked from Chinese theaters for a pun that was viewed by some movie-goers (and vocal parts of the Chinese government) as an insult. The scene in question stars Chinese-American actor Jin Au-Yeung and consists of something like, “Look at my knees! What kind of knees are these? Chi-nese!”
Apparently this pun was ad-libbed by Au-Yeung himself, and he wrote a lengthy explanation:
“I wanted to address this controversy going on right now about a line that my character says in the movie that’s being perceived as racist.
“Let me give you some context. It’s two soldiers, one from China, one from Australia, in a vehicle in the desert, and they’re essentially just cracking jokes with each other. So the one from China says, ‘Look at my knees, what kind of knees are these? Chi-knees!’
“That’s the scene. It’s a pun, and the way I portrayed the character and the emotion of it is this is a moment for him to proudly proclaim that he is a Chinese soldier. Not just his knees, but his arms, his head, his heart.
“And this has nothing to do with that stupid ‘Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees’ whatever the heck that is, has nothing to do with it. If anything, why I’m so frustrated and it’s eating at my heart is that I felt that this was a scene that was supposed to be a moment for Chinese people to be like ‘Yes! There’s a Chinese soldier!’ That’s all. So for it to be flipped upside down like this, it really really like is eating at me. But I will say, at the same time, for anybody that misunderstood or thought it was meant to be belittling, I sincerely apologize. I do.”
Milla Jovovich, star of the movie, gave this public response to Au-Yeung:
“I’m so sad that you feel the need to apologize. You are amazing and have always been so outspoken about your pride in your Chinese heritage. The line you improvised in the film was done to remind people of that pride, not to insult people. We should have researched the historical origin of it and that’s 100% on us, but you didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. None of us had ever heard the ‘dirty knees’ reference. You included. It was our fault for not doing our due diligence and finding the WW2 era rhyme that’s caused this uproar.”
Because of the large movie-going bloc in China, we are seeing more examples of Hollywood keeping Chinese audiences specifically in mind while making films. Monster Hunter will be released in American theaters on December 25, but in response to the controversy in China, the studios have chosen to cut the ad-libbed line from all future versions of the movie.
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.