Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Motion Pictures (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

William Rothman

Second Committee Member

Lindsey Tucker

Third Committee Member

Christina Lane


Jackie Chan has had a long and consistently successful career in the entertainment industry, becoming the most universally recognized Chinese performer, second only perhaps, to Bruce Lee. His rags-to-riches path to stardom has been well documented and oft quoted. At a time when all the up-and-coming martial arts actors felt the pressure to be carbon copies of Bruce Lee, Chan made his mark on the screen by making his persona everything that Lee's wasn't. With 1978's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master, Chan's revolutionary comic and realistic persona was firmly established with audiences. Throughout the '80s and '90s, Chan remained undeniably the biggest star in the East, demonstrating wild popularity in not only Asia, but throughout Europe and Africa as well. After several failed attempts at breaking into the American market, Chan finally achieved success with 1998's Rush Hour. Unfortunately, success in the West has come with strict limitations placed on the characters he has been allowed to play. These limitations most often manifest themselves in the sexuality and morality of the characters, as well as the dramatic opportunities available to Chan within the films. In order to keep Chan's vast filmography - which has recently seen him sign on to his 100th leading role - I have separated it into three distinct stages. The first stage of his career begins with his groundbreaking turn in Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and ends with his last Asian film before successfully breaking into Hollywood, 1998's Who am I?. From this point on, his career takes two distinct paths: the path in Hollywood, beginning with Rush Hour, and the path in Asia, which begins with 1999's Gorgeous. Each stage features distinct characteristics and trends with rare digression. I will provide examples from a selection of films within each stage of his career in order to clarify the traits and characteristics of the roles he has taken in each one. The purpose of this thesis is twofold. First and foremost, it will reveal the extent to which Chan faces negative stereotyping in the United States by clearly offering the contrasting positive representations he is able to achieve overseas. The second aim, which has naturally arisen from the workings of the first, is a critical look at a career that has found its actor bored with the kinds of films that have brought him worldwide fame.


Police Story; Rush Hour; Shinjuku Incident; Martial Arts; Hong Kong; Sexuality; Masculinity; Jackie Chan