Sunday, March 2, 2008

Enter the Dragon: The Masculinization of Asian Men?

It's interesting to think of how Bruce Lee single-handedly redefined the image of an Asian man for an entire culture. It is easy to see this in "Enter the Dragon", with Lee's finesse and martial arts charisma. No longer is the Asian man small, passive, and hunched over like the "yellow man" in Broken Blossoms, but instead he has become a powerful, agressive man's man. Although many may believe this is progress for the Asian man, could this possibly be true? After all, many forget that Bruce Lee is in fact a quarter Caucasion. Can he truly represent a progression for Asian American men, or does the fact that he is partially white play a role in his masculinization?

And there are also very "alien" characteristics that Bruce Lee's character maintains. He has very few lines throughout the movie, and when he does speak, they emphasize his accent or his Asianness. They make great use of his squeaks and howls as his martial arts trademark, almost alienating him from everyone else. Another good point is that Lee's character is almost desexualized. No where in the movie does he acquire a love interest or a story line of love at all. He remains completely faithful to his martial arts. Does this send a message about Asian men and their sexuality? I actually began watching the movie, thinking it would be very similar to a James Bond type movie, packed with action and women. For Bruce Lee's character however, its only filled with action.

Although there is some criticism of the movie at hand, "Enter the Dragon" and Bruce Lee have helped pave the way for other Asian actors much like himself. Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Chow Yun Fat have all created an arena for Asian American martial arts actors. They have finally been able to masculinize a stereotype maintained for ages about Asian men. However, this may have created a dichotomy for Asian American men. Is he a martial arts expert, or a books-smart nerd? I hope in the future, there will be a diversity of Asian American images, not just a black-and-white option.

No comments: