Friday, March 7, 2008

Angry Asian Man, You Are Not Alone.

Bruce Lee’s not the only angry Asian man around. This is Beau Sia, one of my favorite spoken word poets, performing on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam (sorry for the low quality).

Sia said in an interview that he actually prefers performing for non-Asian audiences, because of the opportunity to present a new voice, and not just reiterate frustrations with which Asian-American community is already familiar. This means this piece was written as a direct address to a non-Asian audience; it’s deliberately confrontational, reactionary.

So how does this angry Asian man compare with the one we’ve seen kicking ass in Enter the Dragon? For starters, there’s the image that each chooses to portray. Bruce’s powerful, muscular, battle-scarred body is a direct contrast to the hunched, fragile-looking Yellowman of Broken Blossoms. Beau, on the other hand, chooses to go with the fluffy pink turtleneck. Baffling at first, but one can compare the sweater to Bruce’s often-imitated falsetto yells. A comedian in an earlier video post claimed that Bruce Lee was the only person in the world that could make those noises and still be scary. Similarly, I think Beau Sia’s got to be the only guy who can wear that sweater and still be just as badass.

We discussed how Bruce Lee seems to portray himself as almost superhuman-- or at least otherworldly. He chooses to abstain from sex and alcohol, and he promotes the art of “fighting without fighting,” which is a noble statement (on top of being plain ol’ magic). Whereas Beau seems to scream that he is just as human as everyone else. He doesn’t claim to be above sex-- just better at it. Bruce Lee’s character (though significantly more impressive) still retains much of the oriental exoticism we’ve addressed-- yet in his hands it seems more like an expression of pride in Asian culture than an exploitation of it. After all, the “finger pointing at the moon” line isn’t just kung fu movie hocus-pocus, but comes straight out of Buddhist scripture.

One sequence of Enter the Dragon that I found interesting was the final fight scene with Han. In its final moments, Bruce literally becomes lost in a maze of images, and is confused by the multiple shifting reflections of himself and of his enemy. He is only able to defeat Han by shattering the phantom images in order to confront the real villain. The scene is a powerful statement. We, too, must first study and become absorbed by the images of our own bodies that are projected around us. But studying them isn’t enough. Our ultimate goal has to be to destroy these images, and thereby to get at the social problems that underlie them.

As a final parting gift, here’s another fantastic clip from Beau Sia, this time addressing pop culture in general.

1 comment:

Brendan Kramer said...

haha I love this, so great!