I got a great gift one Christmas. A friend gave me a bunch of DVDs of old Charlie Chan movies. I thought about political correctness while I watched four Chan movies in a row, starting with The Shanghai Cobra (1945).
I love Charlie Chan. Poor Charlie was one of the first victims of the Politically Correct Mafia.
In case you're too young to remember, he was the jolly little round Chinese detective in those great mystery movies of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. His movies can rarely be seen on television. They're banned on most network stations.
The movies are all pretty much alike. There's a murder and Charlie Chan is called in to solve it. The killer is usually a guy with a mustache. That was the formula for the B-movies of that era: FH=M (Facial Hair equals Murderer).
Charlie Chan was assisted by his Number One Son and his driver, Birmingham Brown. Both the kid and the driver were frightened, blithering idiots. Charlie spent most of the time in the movie giving us his corny "Confucius say . . ." fortune-cookie sayings that are not unlike the great philosophical insights we now see written on our bumper stickers and T-shirts.
What I find fascinating is that you never saw a bullet hole or blood or violence in those movies. There's always a scene where someone would say, "I know who the killer is. It's . . ." Then you would see a close-up of a gun. Then the lights would go out, and then a shot would ring out. And the person who was about to give the evidence was crumpled in a heap on the floor. Charlie would kneel over the body and say out loud, "He's dead. Killer is both clever and cunning. No one leave room, please."
Charlie always got his man. But then one day, Charlie Chan was murdered in cold blood. Killed by a whole new generation that decided Charlie Chan movies were not politically correct.
The Asians hated that he was a stereotypical Chinese man. He spoke with a Chinese accent. It didn't help that Charlie Chan was played by Caucasians (Sidney Toler and Roland Winters) who were pretending to be Chinese. The PC hated that his Number One Son was a dope. Black groups hated the fact that he had a driver and the driver was black and was something of a boob. Holier-than-thou political groups marched against Charlie Chan. Grown men got up and made speeches against Charlie and all that he stood for.
In time, not one single television station in the country would carry a Charlie Chan movie.
Now, one movie series they continue to show over the years is Sherlock Holmes, and as best as I can figure, the Wasps didn't picket television stations because Dr. Watson was a bit of a dope. In fact, there is no record of Wasps picketing anyone because another Wasp is portrayed as a dope. This leads me to believe that either Wasps aren't very organized, or that they feel that they have more dopes than any other group, or they've been around so long they don't give a damn what anyone thinks of them. Or, all three. These days Sherlock Holmes is having a revival on Masterpiece Mystery Theatre on PBS where you can see Sherlock brilliantly portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. Since PBS only accepts Politically Correct viewers, the character of Dr. Watson is now a Rhodes Scholar instead of the amusing old Wasp fool we grew up with in the movies.
Anyway, the Wasps are the only group in the world who haven't protested anything since their last great success, the Boston Tea Party.
I had a long conversation about this column with my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht. She didn't think it was very politically correct for me to be doing a column about being politically correct. We talked about this while we watched a tape of Charlie Chan and the Sky Dragon. At one point I said, "Speaking as an Italian . . ."
She quickly said, "You're not an Italian."
"I'm not an Italian? Of course I'm an Italian. My mother and father were Italians."
"They may have been Italians because they were born in Italy, but you're an Italian-American."
"When did I become an Italian-American? Who decided? Why didn't I get a chance to vote on this?" I screamed.
My screams were interrupted by gunfire. On the television screen, Charlie Chan had just caught the killer. It was a fake insurance investigator. I was relieved to see he had a mustache.
It's nice to know that some things never change.
Or at least they won't change until The Committee To Protest the Unfair Treatment of Men With Mustaches is formed.
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