The Tai Lung Theory

Film Thoughts

Tai Lung was raped in Prison?

tai lung imprisoned

This was a theory I thought I came up with myself until I found out online that several fanfiction writers and members of the Kung Fu Panda community had surmised this early on.

Was it possible that the infamous snow leopard was brutally, and likely repeatedly, raped by the guards of Chor Gom Prison?

It is highly unlikely that the creators of the movie meant for this idea to be instilled in a family-friendly animation, but with the idea so easily accepted amongst fans of the movie, where does it come from?

“How do you wanna take it today, Kitty?”
“How do you wanna take it today, Kitty?”

So what are the facts? Commander Vachir clearly has a disdain for him and frequently mocks Tai Lung in his imprisoned state and in the movie makes a point of showing this by stepping on his tail knowing he can do nothing about it. Ok, so maybe that’s not much. But what about the fact that Tai Lung is not only locked up but immobilized leaving his body vulnerable let alone in a bent over position making non-consensual sodomy all too easy. It would be very possible that some guard took advantage of this (and thus, him).

Arguably, the the other biggest motivator to the theory is one that doesn’t come from the movie itself; the fact that prison rape does exist, and quite a bit more than people care to think about. And while most associate the term “prison rape” with inmate-on-inmate rape, there is a another, albeit less prominent, case of staff-on-inmate rape.

Shifu and Tai Lung 2So why would people throughout the KFP community, both fans who like and dislike Tai Lung,  want to believe this idea? There are two reasons this theory is endorsed, each one from both sides.

1. It takes the mighty snow leopard and forces him into a submissive role. Fans of KFP who dislike Tai Lung like this theory because it changes his stance with out making a retcon of his personality as it would be happening against his will. It only leaves the guards in question who are not very discussed in the movie at all and are less concrete to changes in character.

2. It adds to the sympathy of the villain. Why? It fleshes out the character to a more 3-dimensional state. One of the problems that creators found while making Kung Fu Panda was that test audiences consistently found Tai Lung too sympathetic. And why not? Living a life with one goal in mind only to be denied it. Who hasn’t been there or can’t relate to that? Throw in the father/son dilemma and the fact that the title he wanted goes to someone else and you not only have a pretty good understanding of why this guy is angry but you almost find that his anger is justified. It wasn’t until the creators included mention of Tai Lung’s rampage across the Valley of Peace that audiences felt he was just unlikeable enough to be a villain. So the guy attacked innocent people? Well, sure then, he deserves to go to prison…. where he was raped. Just like that, we’re back to feeling sorry for him. It also adds a role reversal to the situation. The supposedly admirable guards are now despicable rapist and the once “dangerous” villain is suddenly the victim.

Personally, I do believe this theory.

After assessing this theory, I re-watched all of the prison scenes and Tai Lung’s confrontation with Master Shifu keeping it in mind, and I must say it not only seemed to make sense but it added to the intensity and the dimension of each of these scenes.

“How do you like me when I’m not chained up?”
“How do you like me when I’m not chained up?”

It gives a new meaning to his anger. During the breath-taking prison break sequence, he’s not only fighting off the guards to escape, suddenly his fighting is an act of revenge against any one of their sexual assaults enacted on him while he was defenseless. His anger and vengeance gives him a different drive. He’s re-establishing his dominance and power among people who formerly dominated him.

You didn’t stand up for me, Dad. And I was sent to prison. You wanna know what happened to me there?”

You didn’t stand up for me, Dad. And I was sent to prison. You wanna know what happened to me there?”


As for the equally thrilling encounter back at the Palace, it is clear that Tai Lung blames Shifu for his imprisonment by his remark “I rotted in jail for twenty years… because of your weakness.” With this mindset he can easily also blame him for anything that happened to him while he was in jail including however many times the guards of the prisons forced themselves on him.

I don’t think it’s such a glaring revolution that it makes it impossible to view the movie without thinking about this. I’ve seen the movie multiple times after theorizing this idea and the movie works both ways. While the idea may not have been intentional and might seem needlessly cruel to a character who already had a lot against them, it gives some great depth to an already great and deep villain.

-Cameron Metrejean