SVA MA Design Research

SVA MA Design Research, Writing & Criticism1 is a one-year graduate program2
devoted to the study of design, its contexts & consequences.
Our graduates have gone on to pursue research-related careers in publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, entrepreneurship, & more.3

  1. Formerly known as D-Crit
  2. About the program
  3. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. All successful candidates awarded a significant scholarship!
SVA MA Design Research

136 W 21st St, 2nd Floor

New York, NY 10011

e.

designresearch@sva.edu

t.

@dcrit

p.

(212) 592-2228

Kung Fu Fighting – SVA MA Design Research

Alex Bevier

Kung Fu Fighting

Upon reading the title of Hybrid Cultures, I recall the bizarre situation that created Carl Douglas’ classic song, Kung Fu Fighting.

When we talk about appropriation of culture in a modern sense, we don’t think about it in relation to hybrid culture. Maybe it’s my liberal mentality, but this Kung Fu Fighting seems to exist in a distinctively 1970s look at hybrid culture.

Kung Fu films were very popular at this point in time, largely in low income neighborhoods. Blacksploitation films were in their prime, but the theaters often showed other martial arts films. This led to a phenomenon where many were exposed to both appropriative films (which were the only places black people were represented in film) and international action films. This is how Kung Fu Fighting came to be.

Carl Douglas’ funk hit reads almost like a fan talking about how amazing a movie is. He’s talking about who was there and refers to the enemy as “the Big Boss.” It’s not a song about him battling anyone, but about how everyone was kung fu fighting. The song, as such, becomes interesting inclusive while speaking to two different subaltern communities in 1970s America.

This song represents a unique blend of two cultures into a unique work. This funk song speaks to the people watching these films and how they speak to their experiences. Similar connections are seen throughout history as well. The Rza (of the Wu Tang Clan) has spoken about how the anime Dragonball Z speaks to the black experience in the United States. Identifying how marginalized groups respond to other media leads to a unique discourse about the way hybrid culture and appropriation functions.

I want to conclude by saying that Douglas did write a sequel to the song called Dance the Kung Fu.