In Defense of Tenacity

Jackie Chan speaking

Everyone has at least one favorite Jackie Chan movie. I have two: Drunken Master (1978) and Rush Hour (1998). My wife’s favorite is Shanghai Noon (2000), and I’m sure you can think of a ton of other films he’s been in.

The thing about Jackie Chan is, he is a beast when it comes to output. Most Americans are only aware of a fraction of his work but he has starred in over 200 major motion pictures. He even voiced himself in the animated series Jackie Chan Adventures, which lasted from September 2000 to July 2005.

His immense body of work, a never say die positivity, and brand consistency are the ingredients to Jackie Chan’s fierce tenacity. His tenacious approach to filmmaking is the reason why he was the first Chinese Actor/Filmmaker to earn an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement on November 12, 2016.

We live in an age that praises the idea of fluke success and overnight superstars. We downplay difficulty when we talk about our personal achievements in an effort to make it look like we’ve never failed or that we don’t need practice. We praise tech entrepreneurs and young business billionaires without ever acknowledging their numerous bankruptcies, bad ideas, and mismanaged venture capital. We pretend that hard work is a thing of the past and that all you need in order to be wildly successful is a good idea and some crowd funding. Jackie Chan has shattered all of these notions. He is the poster child for tenacity.

To put it lightly, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences isn’t the most diverse organization. Most of it’s members are white males, and since it’s inception in 1927, the lion’s share of the recipients of Oscar awards have been white males as well. In recent years, we’ve seen people of color win Oscar awards but at an alarmingly disproportionate rate as compared to their white counterparts. To be a person of color who wins an Oscar you have to do one of two things, either give an undeniably phenomenal performance, or work incredibly hard to set yourself apart from everyone else. Jackie Chan has done the latter and has the broken bones to prove it.

Chan won an Oscar without pretending like it was easy. Sometimes the best part of a Jackie Chan film is the blooper reel before the end credits, wherein he shows us the mistakes, bumps and bruises, and the occasional struggle with twisting his tongue to speak English (which is only one of the seven languages that he speaks).

Jackie’s performances are always heartfelt and memorable, but unfortunately the Academy probably wouldn’t deem any one of his individual performances as Oscar worthy. Lack of recognition by the industry you give your life to has stifled and killed the dreams of many an actor, but Jackie Chan doesn’t seem to be motivated by recognition, but instead the thrill of working hard.

At 62 years of age, Jackie Chan has proven that by pairing his talent and his tenacity, he has the ability to accomplish anything. His Oscar award is only one of the 38 nationally recognized film awards that he has won over the course of his career and it is truly worth it’s weight in gold plating, two-hundred times over. He stands as a testament to what it means to be tough, hardworking, and humble. Jackie Chan is, and always will be, one of my heroes.


Reflection Questions:

  1. Think of a dream you have for your future that excites you or makes you happy. What do you fear or resist in this picture of your future?

1 Comment

  1. Joshua Jackson on January 12, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Who didn’t love Jackie Chan he did the incredible! thank you for the read!

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