April 13, 2007
Written by C.N.
More than 30 years after his death, Bruce Lee still occupies a prominent place in Asian American culture and identity. As Wired News reports, there are several movie projects about him in the works, most notably by Justin Lin, director of films such as Better Luck Tomorrow and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift:
Bruce Lee died in 1973, midway through making Game of Death, the only film in which he was the writer, director, producer and lead. Rather than bag the project, Hollywood moviemakers continued filming with a cast of stand-ins — Asian men with only a passing resemblance to Lee. The film led to an entire genre of Bruce Lee films (sans Bruce Lee). For the next 10 years, actors with names like Bruce Li, Bruce Le and Lee Bruce starred in dozens of low-budget, badly dubbed kung fu flicks that mirrored many of Lee’s original films. . . .
[Lin’s new movie] Finishing the Game pokes fun at the entertainment industry’s relentless efforts to hold onto something great that, in reality, is gone forever. In a closing scene, Lin shows a casting director presenting the final candidates. There’s a white guy, a guy in a wheelchair and a guy over 6 feet tall — it’s all pretty absurd. . . .
Finishing the Game also leads what looks to be the next wave of Bruceploitation: A Chicago theater company is working with David Bowie and Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang on a Bruce Lee musical, and director Rob Cohen has been pushing to make a movie that features the real Bruce Lee in CG.
Don’t forget that Chinese entrepreneurs are planning to build a Bruce Lee theme park, complete with roller coasters that emit Bruce’s signature yells. So the question becomes, are these projects a good thing? Are they sincere tributes to his enduring cultural legacy, or is Bruce’s legacy being exploited merely for money?
Ultimately, I think the answers are yes to both questions. In the same way that Mongolia is wrestling with how to promote their ancestral ties to Genghis Khan without corrupting his historical importance, so too are Asian Americans grappling with how to best remember and celebrate Bruce’s life. In the end, capitalism will do whatever it thinks will work.
With that in mind, our task as Asian Americans is to remember Bruce’s legacy as someone who sought to create his own image and identity in the face of resistance and racism from mainstream American society. In that sense, his legacy is alive and well.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "New Bruce Lee Movie Projects" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/04/new-bruce-lee-movie-projects/> ().
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