Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bruce Lee: An Asian American Icon?

Although Bruce Lee is considered such an iconic Asian American figure, he does not strike me as someone august. His jaw dropping physical performances during the fight scenes simply don't do enough to inspire a sense of reverence and admiration, as his reserved nature and unassertive mode of speech contradict his ultra-masculine body and incredible athleticism. Throughout Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee speaks very little and when he does have a line to deliver, he talks so monotonously and unassertively that he fails to hold onto the masculine charisma that Roper and Williams so easily carry. While Williams suavely articulates his attitude, "I don't waste my time. When it [his defeat] comes, I won't even notice. I'll be too busy lookin' good," Bruce Lee only mutters, often devoid of emotion. As many people have already mentioned, the only distinctive auditory impression Bruce Lee gives is the high pitched "Whoaaah!"--a sound not only comic and but also ridiculous. It almost sounds like a monkey's shriek. To me, the sounds he makes with his mouth devalue his heroic visual image. Why can't Bruce Lee be as suave and easily accessible as Williams or Roper? Is it because he comes from the Saolin Temple? Or is it because he has yet to break away from the alien status of an Asian male?
Also, in comparison to Williams, who seems to fight for a common cause against racism (at least in that brief clip of him fighting the cops), Lee seems to fight for his personal cause: to defend the honor of his temple and to avenge his sister's death. But then the antagonist is Asian, an Asian who fits the evil image of opium-den owner and perpetuates the image of an asian prostitute/comfort women. If Han stands for the image of this evil image of asian, which was embraced in the West for a while, does that mean Lee is ultimately defeating the image of the horrible Asian? Maybe he does with his martial arts, but his inability to vocalize and sustain that heroic image prevents Bruce Lee from becoming the awe-inspiring, iconic figure like James Bond. 
*On a random note: did anyone else notice the change in music whenever Williams is on the screen? The music always turns into some sort of funk, a fast-paced guitar sound transformed with the wah-wah pedal.

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