Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Really? I always thought it was pronounced vah-LAY."

THE KICKER : Kato, the monomial valet of the Brit Reid, wealthy publisher of a major newspaper. When Reid goes out fighting crime as the Green Hornet, Kato accompanies him as... his valet, Kato. But he wears a mask, so it's cool. Was Japanese until World War 2 came along, at which point he started being Korean in the movies and Filipino on the Radio, but since they just pretty much wrote him as “Oriental”, and didn't worry much past that, it didn't exactly make an epic difference. Eventually he became Chinese on the 1960s TV series. I mean, I guess. The actor was, anyway.

WHO THEY'RE KICKING : Brit Reid, a member of the classic “rich idiot with no day job” school of vigilantism, with the classic “suit, fedora, and mask” school of costuming. Depending on which version you see, his unique hook is either that he lets everyone think he's a criminal mastermind to get the bad guys to respect and fear him and to throw the cops off his scent, or else you're watching one of the later versions where they realized that after a while everyone would notice that he just went around stopping crime without committing any. Then his unique hook was a snazzy green hat.

WHAT THEY BRING : As has become a recurring theme, we find ourselves changing with the times. In the older versions of the story, to everyone's amazement, I have no doubt, Kato was a clever inventor and chemist who created the Hornet's miscellaneous gadgetry and fancy car, with the tradeoff being that he was played by some white guy on the radio and dweeby Keye Luke in the movies. On the TV series, he had the good fortune to be played by a handsome young unknown actor, but his mechanical aptitude and chemistry skills became less important and he became a kung-fu master instead. This may seem a wee tad racist, but since said newcomer was Bruce Freaking Lee, nobody cares. Besides, it was also less racist in a way...

WHERE'S THE LOVE? : See, in the old radio\serial days, Kato spoke stilted and broken English with a thick, generically Asian accent. On TV, Lee spoke perfect idiomatic English, with a faint and realistic accent. What's odd is that what people seem to remember is that he did kung-fu and had a thick accent. Were I one for writing more cerebral fare, I would wonder at this perhaps being indicative of some deeply-ingrained racism in the cultural zeitgeist, but I'm really more in the dick and fart jokes category. Speaking of which, Seth Rogen is currently writing a Green Hornet movie, if you can believe it. When asked what kind of Kato would be featured, Rogen said that depends on the actor. Apparently, they're going to look for an actor they like, and write the role to fit him. A sensible way of doing things, I feel. They could, of course, get someone smart, funny, attractive, and martial-artsy, but Stephen Chow already said no, so it's back to square one.

Actually, as I made to post this, they announced the casting of this guy. He seems okay? He's mostly a musician, which is a bit of a red flag, but he's done some acting and directing, too. So bully for him.