No Sweet Lip for Asian Men
I remember when Romeo Must Die came out and a lot of people on the black/Asian message boards were upset because there was no clincher kiss at the end of the movie. Rumors spread why Jet Li and Aaliyah didn’t kiss: he was allergic to her lipstick, Asians wouldn’t like it, black people wouldn’t like it –stupid stuff. But most of the people on the black female/Asian male message boards wanted to see a romantic ending with Jet Lie and Aaliyah clutched in an embrace.
If you watched The Slanted Screen on PBS this month you found out why.
And Gene Cajayon, the Filipino American director of the 2001 film “The Debut,” the first Fil-Am movie to be released nationwide in the United States, talks about the revised ending for the action movie “Romeo Must Die,” a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” where the R&B star Aaliyah plays Juliet to the Chinese actor Jet Li’s Romeo. The original ending had Aaliyah kissing Li, a scenario that didn’t test well with an “urban audience.” So the studio changed it. The new ending had Aaliyah giving Li a tight hug. Says Cajayon, “Mainstream America, for the most part, gets uncomfortable with seeing an Asian man portrayed in a sexual light.”
So it perhaps it was racially motivated but I’m betting anything it didn’t come from black or Asian camps. I may be hedging bets but something tells me they probably tested the movie to mostly white audiences and the white audiences in selected markets and they were probably uncomfortable with a consumated love connection between the two. I don’t know whether it was more that Aaliyah was black or that Jet Li is Asian or the thought of the two hooking up just seemed implausible but whichever way it went down it made it end with the oddest hug between them. All through the movie you got the vibe they were feeling each other and fallling in love and then at the end she cradles his face and hugs him. Uh huh. Yeah.
I wonder if they remade the movie today if it would have the same ending. I’m awaiting the premiere of Akira’s Hip Hop Shop starring James Kyson Lee. I can admit I’m interested in seeing the movie because I’m in a similar combination, but hey, everyone wants to see a reflection of themselves out in the world even the smallest of categories.