Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is a Gweilo?

"Ghost Man"

"Gweilo" is a Cantonese term that translates literally as "Ghost Man," although it's sometimes translated as "foreign devil."

It's a word for "foreigner" (much like "gringo" in Spanish or "gaijin" in Japanese).  The "ghost" part refers to the weird, death-like, unearthly paleness of Europeans.  Its origins are somewhat derogatory, but it's not particularly bad any more.



I am a gweilo.  Definitely.  As a random pale-skinned American dude who is a fan of Hong Kong cinema, I'm a gweilo in every sense of the word.

And that totally defines my perspective on these movies.  I love, respect, and appreciate Hong Kong cinema because, from my gweilo's perspective, it is so much weirder and refreshing and different from the Hollywood stuff what I grew up with.

There are some excellent resources out there on the web for looking at Hong Kong movies.  Many of these resources are created by Hong Kong natives, or Chinese people, or Chinese/Americans, Chinese/Europeans, Chinese/etc.  From that perspective, Hong Kong films are just films, Hong Kong cinema is just cinema.

From the gweilo's perspective though, Hong Kong movies are seriously off-the-charts WTF weird, in the most wonderful and refreshing way possible.

I'm here to share that perspective, to capture the freshness of seeing these films from the outsider's perspective.
 

Fun Fact:

Any Western (non-Chinese) actor who had a role in a Hong Kong movie was always referred to on set as a Gweilo as well.

They almost always played evil, bumbling bad guys.  For example, this evil gweilo about to shoot a baby in Aces Go Places IV:
Bwa ha ha ha!  I shoot babies!

Because they are bumbling as well as evil, they pretty much always get their asses handed to them.

Here's a Gweilo in a remarkably bad wig getting kicked in the nuts by Jackie Chan in Armour of God:
Ouch!
And here's legendary Gweilo John Ladalski, about to get his ass kicked:
Uh oh!

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