The idea of making a film in which the hero, a Chinese national symbol, is a bit of a slouch just doesn't wash. Which is also something Po isn't particularly good at. "Both Asia and the West have elite culture, but in China, Confucian forms dominate," said Zhang Nian, a culture critic. "This panda is a flunky who haggles for his own selfish ends." Chinese film heroes are generally long on perfection and short on foibles. The men are handsome and robust and the women fair and graceful. And they generally don't have Po's willpower problem, eating disorders or tendency to run from danger. ... Added to the no-no list for Chinese animators is raciness, particularly in a children's movie. Witness Po's joking use of noodle bowls to simulate breasts and his bid to protect his family jewels — known in Chinese as "little brothers" — in the middle of a fight.And that's the toned-down version — by fired writer Dan Harmon's infamous account, perhaps the 60th or 65th script draft in a process that once included thinly veiled references to co-star Angelina Jolie's "big sister" and featured Po kicking opium cold turkey in a second-act training montage. And then there was the whole unused Sharon Stone subplot... Seriously, China, it could have been so much worse.
On one hand, we're sort of ashamed to have doubled our knowledge of Chinese culture today with one glance at the Los Angeles Times. On the other, a spoonful of sugar — or, more specifically, of Kung Fu Panda — made the medicine go down that much easier as we learned the deep angst gripping China in the wake of the film's success. It's not frustrating enough, evidently, that DreamWorks usurped Chinese authority over everything from animation to the sacred panda itself; rather, the hero Po's abject laziness and mild prurience has an angry 1.2 billion souls searching as we speak: