Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Twinks and Asian daddies

The Forbidden Kingdom's gay subtext


I’m not, nor have i ever been, the slender, smooth-skinned Asian twink type depicted in porn and magazines.

Rather, I was an over-weight, asthmatic, weightlifter who suffered from eczema.

Now all grown up, I’m still not the submissive bottom looking for a daddy that seems to be in large supply (and presumably demand) on porn and hookup sites. What’s a beefy, twink-chasing Asian over 30 to do?

Feeling like a square peg in North America’s round holes (and not in the good way), I was surprised to find some relief in the Forbidden Kingdom.

On the surface, this family action film follows the story of bullied teenager Jason Tripitikas as he travels back in time and learns self-confidence and kung fu while on a mission to return a magical weapon to the fabled Monkey King, thereby fulfilling prophecy and saving civilization as we know it.

The film features, for the first time together on screen, action movie superstars Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

Filling the role of the somewhat annoying, wide-eyed, squeaky boy-hero is Michael Angarano, known to queer audiences as Jack’s 12-year-old son in Will & Grace. Angarano, now 20 (my, how time flies), brings his brand of hot cuddliness to the film, especially in his few but notable shirtless scenes.

I’ll admit that celebrating the gay subtext of Forbidden Kingdom is a bit of a reach. The homosexual undertones are clearly not intended. However, for someone as hungry as I am for a fresh portrayal of Asian male sexuality this film is ripe — and filled with loads of gay brain candy.

Forbidden Kingdom is the latest movie to lovingly follow in the tradition of the Karate Kid series and the Jonathan Brandis vehicle Sidekicks.

Like its predecessors, Kingdom tells the story of a soft, helpless, orphaned twink who finds companionship with a sweet but firm Asian daddy figure who teaches him to spread his legs and remove his shirt in the name of respect, love, self-confidence and, oh yes, kung fu!

Unlike with Karate Kid’s Mr Miyagi, and Sidekick’s Mr Lee, Kingdom ups the ante by offering multiple Asian mentors, all of whom are yet in their prime: Jet Li in dual roles plays a stoic monk and the mischievous Monkey King; the dashingly handsome Collin Chou plays the flamboyant Jade Warlord, complete with eye shadow and opulent robes; and Jackie Chan stars in dual roles as an elderly Chinatown pawn shop owner and a drunken scholar.

This wide range of characters presents a lovely spectrum of Asian male masculinity rarely seen in American movies and gives our lonely twink more choice in his relationships and mentors.

From the first scene that establishes Jason’s relationship with Old Hop (Chan as the pawn shop owner who sells the boy bootlegged DVDs of classic kung fu flicks), I felt like I was transported into a fantasy world of my own life. I thought to myself, when I’m an elderly Asian man if I could lure cute boys to my place with my DVD collection I’d be set!

Later when Jason is blasted to the past and meets up with Lu Yan (Chan as the drunken kung fu master), I felt more than a twinge of recognition. I was reminded of my many drunken attempts to mentor young twinks whom I had met at the bars. I’ll spare you any “drunken fist” jokes.

Meanwhile, Li’s portrayals of the stoic, powerful, mysterious monk and the playful Monkey King offer beautifully contrasting explorations into Asian male masculinity.

And Chou’s turn as the glamorous Jade Warlord oozes with power, sensuousness and grace. All this while staying fully draped in traditional Chinese robes hiding that incredible body of his (which can be fully appreciated at!

Though Forbidden Kingdom drops the requisite massage scenes featured in Sidekicks and Karate Kid, the film is filled with lots of man-on-man action, feats of master-student devotion and tenderness, and even a golden shower scene!

The only thing keeping this from being an out-and-out gay movie is the requisite female love interest.

Joining our ‘boys in the band’ is the vengeful Golden Sparrow, played by the beautiful Yiefei Liu. Sparrow wants to take down the Jade Emperor at all costs and takes turns saving and being saved with Jason on their perilous journey through jungles and desert wastelands.

I am, however, pleased to report that I cannot recall a heterosexual kiss (perhaps because I shut my eyes) thus leaving open the possibility that — rather than being a love interest, — the Sparrow is merely the threesome’s devoted fag hag.

As I sat in the theatre and watched Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Collin Chou portray strong, middle-aged, attractive mentors who guide our twinky-hero, I felt somehow reassured. The film not only stoked my fantasies by presenting a cute boy, but it also teamed him up with guys like me!

I walked out feeling better about my age, my race and my style of masculinity. I feel more confident now that I am still relevant to boys in my 30s — and could well remain relevant into my 40s and 50s. Now all I have to do is master the art of kung fu.