Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bringing sexy back... to Bruce Lee

Well, a lot of people pointed out that the character Lee has been pretty much castrated in Enter the Dragon, so I'd like to start with a moment of zen from comedian Steve Byrne (NOT work safe):

So this was the first time I had ever seen a Bruce Lee movie, but I saw that act by Steve Byrne a few weeks ago and was doubling over laughing even though I hadn't the shadiest clue what a Bruce Lee movie really looked like. And as I read through the posts here, I find out I'm not the only non-initiated viewer. It's amazing that our whole view of The Legendary Bruce Lee has been formed from pretty much a single movie. To think of all the places he could've led cinema if he had lived... I don't think Bruce Lee would've let the crazy kungfu chicken calls reverberate through the halls of history.

Seeing as how it was pretty much Bruce's first cautious step into American cinema, of course there's so much wrong with this film (though at the same time, I seriously enjoyed it). The role of women was pretty laughable (and by laughable, I mean I'm ready to torch its effigy) and the way it presents race was woefully confusing and incomplete. From that chapter in Prashad's book, it's clear Bruce Lee was going to go somewhere with the representation of race in his movies, but the idea was never allowed to develop in later movies he might have made so we're left dangling and confused. Step one was getting Warner Brothers to actually release the film, and step two... well, he never quite got there.

It's funny that Bruce Lee never did become the Asian hero he wanted to portray, and yet we've taken what he has done and turned THAT into an Asian hero. Every scrawny Asian boy suddenly had a role model: if they weren't strong, they could at least by FAST like Bruce Lee. And yeah, this is all wrapped up in a nicely desexualized package... that's why we get a kick out of imagining the on-screen Lee having sex.

But still, I like what Bruce Lee did in Enter the Dragon. It was the beginning of an alternate portrayal of manhood that was obviously needed (given Bruce Lee's continuing popularity). Unfortunately, I don't really see Jackie Chan and Jet Li re-sexing the role Bruce Lee created (though if you watch some of Jackie Chan's HK movies... man, that's a different story). We still haven't given Bruce Lee back his manhood yet.

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