The changing charismatic status of the performing male body in Asian martial arts films
This essay is driven by foregrounding the performing body in Asian martial arts films. This focus leads to the emergence of three simple but important categories of performing body within the genre: the martial-artist-as-actor, the actor-as-martial-artist and the 'enhanced' martial-artist-as-actor. These emergent categories are then explored by focusing on a few celebrated Asian martial arts films and martial artists/actors. The analysis draws upon a range of sociological perspectives of the body including the construction of body charisma, ideas of a martial habitus as legitimate schemes of dispositions, modes of body usage and the positioning of forms of masculinity within the global gender order that the predominantly male bodies in Asian martial arts films must negotiate. It is concluded that the charismatic performing body provides a fertile yet hitherto under explored point of departure for the study of martial arts films, martial culture and the gendered bodies that inhabit them.