Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Fighting talk: Martial Arts discourse in mainstream films

Bowman, Paul 2019. Fighting talk: Martial Arts discourse in mainstream films. JOMEC Journal 13 , pp. 30-50. 10.18573/jomec.186

[thumbnail of 186-256-2-PB.pdf]
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (524kB) | Preview


This article examines conversations, dialogues and statements about martial arts in films that can by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as martial arts films. It takes this unusual focus in order to glean unique insights into the status of martial arts in mainstream popular culture. The work is interested in the ways that martial arts are understood, positioned and given value within the wider flows, circuits, networks or discourses of culture. Films examined include Vision Quest/Crazy for You (1985), Lolita (1962), Roustabout (1964), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Rollerball (1975), Trading Places (1983), The Wanderers (1979), Once Were Warriors (1994) and Meet the Fockers (2004); and some discussion is given to ‘limit cases’ – action films such as The Matrix (1999) and Lethal Weapon (1987). The analysis suggests that martial arts tend to be represented in non-martial arts films audiovisually, and that on the rare occasions martial arts are discussed, they tend to emerge as improper or culturally unusual activities or practices. Because of their familiar, yet non-normal (unhomely/unheimlich, uncanny) status, along with their entwinement in senses of lack and related fantasies and desires, martial arts in these contexts are frequently related to matters of sexuality, insecurity and the desire for plenitude. Accordingly, although occasionally associated with higher cultural values such as dignity, martial arts are more often treated as comic, uncanny or perverse aberrations from the norm.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Publisher: Cardiff University Press
ISSN: 2049-2340
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 February 2019
Date of Acceptance: 1 December 2018
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2019 17:04

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics