Britt Reid(AKA Green Hornet played by Seth Rogen), a rich and useless parasite, inherits his deceased father’s newspaper empire. After experiencing the rush of rescuing a couple being mugged, Britt teams up with his renaissance-man assistant, Kato(played by Jay Chou), to save their home, Los Angeles, from local criminal kingpin, Chudnofsky.”
As progressive as this version of the Green Hornet tries to be, it still falls short. Kato is shown to be a renaissance man (master of many skills, physicality, highly intelligent, and creative) but is still ridiculed by the Green Hornet and ignored by everyone else. He does not command the respect that he deserves. Lenore, the love interest (played by Cameron Diaz) rebuff’s Kato’s romantic pursuit. In one scene, Kato plays the piano to seduce Lenore, but she leaves – implying that Asian men are undesirable.
Instead, Britt Reid (AKA the Green Hornet played by Seth Rogen) succeeds even though he is an inferior man in everyway.
Throughout the movie, Britt belittles Kato for being small and different. Britt condescendingly calls Kato a sidekick despite him being indespensable. Kato is also smeared as a pervert for his artistic drawings. I guess that means every one at DC and Marvel comics are perverts too.
As the movie progresses, Kato is always positioned behind the Green Hornet. At 36:30, Kato receives Lenore graciously into the office while Britt comes in boisterously putting his body between them to get Lenore’s attention. Kato’s presence shrinks to allow Britt to be in the spotlight. – The White man gets the attention of women, at the expense of the Asian man.
While the White man enjoys life with beautiful women, it’s the Asian man who toils away unrecognized and unrewarded in a room.
His presence is always small in comparison to Britt’s. Kato is a watcher of Britt’s performance. As Seth Rogen takes over a scene, Jay Chou is pushed into the background to make room for the white man. Every fight scene starts off with Kato beating some gangster to a pulp, but ends with the Green Hornet pummeling the last thug and taking the glory in the news.
The Green Hornet never fails to remind Kato that he is just a sidekick and doesn’t even deserve a cool name. At 33:45, Britt’s name for himself (the Green Bee) meets disapproval. Kato’s idea (the Green Hornet) is met with approval by the team, but Britt jealously shot down Kato’s idea, implying the White man’s ideas are better than ideas from an Asian man, even if inferior. Note how Kato is placed behind Britt suggesting Kato is just a minor sidekick.
The Asian man’s value is minimized throughout. He is referred to as a nameless chaffeur by newspapers or a masked accomplice elsewhere. Contrast this to Batman “and Robin” – not “and other guy”.
Despite his ingenuity and resourcefulness, Kato enjoys very little reward. He gets no love from Lenore (explained below), and no real recognition from Britt. Britt, who is lazy and mediocre, reaps the rewards while doing nothing. The recurring theme of the movie is that the white man will prevail even though he is a lazy bully because the Asian man will do anything the white man wants.
A defining scuffle between Kato and Green Hornet midway through the film established the pecking order. Britt’s decision to keep Kato in the dark of his plans and sucker punching Kato triggers the fight. Kato showcases his fighting powress. In contrast, Britt fights dirty. The fight ends with the two falling into an outdoor swimming pool. Kato, who can’t swim, pleads to Britt to save him. Britt considers it for a second before finally throwing Kato a floatation device. Even in the face of Kato’s significant feats, the Asian man is knocked down a few notches so he “knows his place” underneath the “superior” white man.
The love interest, Lenore, whom Kato fancies mostly from a distance implies he is unmanly and meek. Although Britt never establishes sexual intimacy with Lenore, he nonetheless somewhat successfully expresses his sexual interest repeatedlly which implies he is manly enough to go after what he wants. This type of delusional attitude may seem funny to the viewer, but showcases how the white man can go about saying anything he wants without consequence.
Furthermore, the planned kiss between Kato and Lenore in this movie never comes to fruition. In an interview with the actors about the kiss, Cameron Diaz claimed that not having the kiss relieved the burden of the typical tropes of hero movies. It is obvious that Cameron Diaz refused to kiss Jay Chou on screen, but was spinned as a case of being “innovative”. However, the weight of the evidence is against her. Diaz has been in many movies where she kissed the main character. It just so happens that the main character this time is not white, but Asian. Her “innovative” reason is but thinly veiled racism.
After spending two hours watching the Green Hornet, you start to realize how racist it really is. Even though Kato was intended to be cool, the Green Hornet ultimately treats Kato as anyone in the white power structure would treat an Asian man – with disrespect and often, contempt. The White man has no place for Asian Men but beneath him.