Inside, the members of Migos somehow operate their restaurant by smoking blunts with Pharrell Williams and betting on mahjong, a game they clearly do not understand: The process of paying out bets in Mahjong is incredibly complicated, and Migos are just throwing money on the table. After a couple painful minutes—in which Migos karate chop cinder blocks, stir noodles, and do their best to imitate every trope of a “Chinese” movie—the music video begins to take on a plot, when a rival restaurateur from the other side of Hong Kong throws a severed hand in a take-out box through the front window of Migos’ restaurant. This is just the first of several extreme spectacles that add to the absurdity of the video. While these antics make little sense, they succeed in endearing us to the video as a whole. After all, who isn’t thrilled by severed hands in take-out boxes?
Upon this provocation, Migos and two of their female bodyguards storm their competition’s restaurant, The Great Wall, to find that their third bodyguard now works for their nemesis. The music cuts, and a two minute kung fu showdown begins. While this battle sees Migos triumph, the defeat of their rivals is not enough: The music video ends with the bodyguards preparing to cut out the tongue of their duplicitous former comrade, yet another of the absurdities that make the video so compelling.
This music video feels like an ill-conceived imitation of many classic American kung fu movies, from “Big Trouble in Little China” to “Bloodsport.” All it shares with them is a misunderstanding of the actual practice of gong fu (功夫) and a reliance on stereotypical Chinese culture: The video, much like its predecessors, depicts gong fu as a violent form of combat, when in reality, the practice is mostly focused on self improvement and discipline. While it may be easy to dismiss this appropriation as Migos’ genuine desire to partake in a greater cultural dialogue with the East, if that is truly the case, then Migos has done an abysmal job. The fight choreography is laughably poor, the laissez-faire use of Chinese cultural items is overdone, and the concept of the video itself depends on outdated stereotypes.
Cultural appropriation aside, “Stir Fry” is one of the most bizarre and poorly acted music videos in recent memory—which makes it a surprising source of comedy. In one memorably stilted moment before the final kung fu showdown, Quavo snarls, “Time to go to sleep.” At this line, which would seem like a low effort threat, Quavo trembles and looks awkwardly at the camera, betraying a clear lack of acting chops. This line is much like the rest of the music video: flawed and awkward, but enjoyable in its absurdity. Reminiscent of Tommy Wiseau's “The Room” in its nonsensical story and wooden acting, “Stir Fry” is delightful in its badness. Although Migos may have fallen short of an artistic statement, a coherent plot, and even an inoffensive video, they have succeeded in producing a visual spectacle that is, if nothing else, entertaining.