Cultural Memory, the Trope of “Humble Wage Earners,” and Everyman Heroism in the Hui Brothers’ Comedies and Their Remake

Jessica Siu Yin Yeung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


In this paper, I examine the comedy films of the Hui brothers—Michael Hui, Stanley Hui, Ricky Hui, and Sam Hui—and demonstrate how a later remake of their films functions as memorialization. I attend to the trope of “humble wage earners” (daagung zai) in the Hui brothers’ comedies and Fantasia (Gwai maa kong soeng kuk), a 2004 film that functions as both homage and remake of the earlier Hui brothers’ comedies. Through my analysis, I argue that the original films and their later remake preserve a cultural memory of Hong Kong during transitional periods. Daa gung zai is a Cantonese term, but the workers come from various sectors and classes. Hence I have translated it into “humble wage earners.”

The trope and its everyman heroism are keys to decoding the social critique in the remake, which can be seen as an archive constructed through pastiche of canonical elements from the originals. I first contextualize the Hui brothers’ comedies in the post-war East Asian comedy film and media tradition (1950s–1970s) and consider them as Hong Kong salarymen comedies, which epitomize the trait of everyman heroism as a core element of Hongkongers’ identity. I demonstrate this point through reading Fantasia and focusing on how memory is represented and the trope is remade. The close reading examines the film’s pastiche of the classic elements, influences, and anecdotes of the Hui brothers’ comedies, hence illustrating film remake’s capacity for archiving cultural memory, rewriting cultural history, and reexamining identity in a new light.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2023
EventAssociation for Asian Studies 2023 Annual Conference - Virtual
Duration: 17 Feb 202318 Feb 2023


ConferenceAssociation for Asian Studies 2023 Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleAAS 2023
OtherVirtual: February 17-18
Place-Based: Boston, March 16-19
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Cultural Memory, the Trope of “Humble Wage Earners,” and Everyman Heroism in the Hui Brothers’ Comedies and Their Remake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this