Chop-Chop's Makeover: From Sidekick and Cook into Bruce Lee

         There have been changes over time in the media portrayal of Chinese, with more positive representations finally emerging.  In the past, Chinese might be portrayed like Hop Lee, a subservient houseboy who fawned over his employer on one hand, and on the other extreme, like Fu Manchu, evil incarnate, out to conquer the world.  Then by mid century they were replaced by the sagacious yet still inscrutable, detective, Charlie Chan. Next he was depicted as the brainy computer nerd by the 1960s.

             These changes involved replacing one stereotype with another; they did not involve changes within a specific character. A striking instance where a fictional character was rewritten drastically to reflect changing social attitudes was with Chop Chop, the token Chinese comic relief companion of the Blackhawk fighter squadron, a 1940s forerunner of the  "Magnificent Seven."

               Throughout the 1940s and well into the 1950s, Chop-Chop was used to provide comic relief in the Blackhawk comic  book where  artist Reed Crandall depicted him as a somewhat emasculated caricature.  Chop Chop is chubby, buck-toothed, wears a queue tied with a bow, and wears coolie looking clothes.  Speaking sing-song English, his gibberish is nonsensical or undecipherable.   An offensive racist stereotype by current standards, it was an accepted and typical of depiction of Chinese and other Asian males until beyond the middle of the 20th century.

               Primarily serving as Blackhawk's sidekick, Chop Chop flew on combat missions in the back seat of a fighter plane piloted by the squadron leader, Blackhawk, presumably because he did not have the skill to fly his own plane.  In hand to hand combat, while other members of the Blackhawk crew, all of European heritage, fought with hand guns, Chop Chop rushed into the fray armed only with a meat cleaver (after all, he was the group's cook).

         With changing times and more favorable attitudes toward Chinese after World War II,  Chop-Chop was "promoted" and even featured in his own comic, Chop Chop, from 1946 to 1955.

             In 1952,  he became cast as a full member of the team, and from 1955 to 1964, he was a more realistically drawn character. However, in the 1980s revival of the series, Chop-Chop was "demoted" wearing a variation of his original outfit (even clutching a meat cleaver on the cover of the first issue).

           When it was decided to portray him as proficient in martial arts, perhaps due to the popularity of Bruce Lee, Chop Chop was renamed, Liu Huang.  In the 1960s, Chop Chop (now Dr. Hands) endowed with beryllium-encased hands, could "smash through practically anything."  By the late 1970s, channeling Bruce Lee he was recast as a Chinese master of martial arts as well as the team's most skilled flier, "save for Blackhawk himself." In the 1980s he was no longer named Chop Chop, but Wu Cheng, a martial arts master.

           In the late 1960s he achieved the rank of Lieutenant, and is not only a master pilot but also a skilled mechanic.  Despite these achievements, he was still providing his skillful services as a cook. Some stereotypes may never change!

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackhawk_(DC_Comics)

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