Sunday, March 2, 2008

Enter the Dragon

After watching Enter the Dragon, I found that the most prominent aspect of the movie was the portrayal of genders and their roles. Although the emasculation is a common theme in media portrayals of Asian American men, I thought that Bruce Lee's portrayal of his character further heightened his masculinity. At the end of the movie during the final fight scene, Bruce Lee is (conveniently) the only character who is fighting without a shirt, showing his insanely muscular body. As a viewer, I never doubted Bruce Lee's eventual victory while he was fighting the "bad guy" in the movie, simply because his physical prowess seemed to surpass his opponents by far (he managed to kill his opponent with just his hands, while his opponent had various claw attachments for his arm and used a spear at one point). One part of the movie that stuck out at me was when, after being slashed by the claw in the stomach, Bruce Lee straightens up, dabs his finger into his wound, and licks the blood. I actually started laughing at this part, since I thought it was completely over-the-top in showing how intense he is about fighting. I didn't know whether this was a show of extreme masculinity, or whether it was to emphasize his savagery in his fighting. Although both are on the opposite side of the spectrum from the characteristics of the effeminate Asian American man, this little gesture made me realize that Asian American men truly are portrayed in only two (very different) ways in the general media - as either emasculated, weak men or as screaming, angry martial arts masters. Although I feel Bruce Lee does more good than harm in the general portrayal of Asian American men in this film, there are still aspects of the film that overdo the “angry savage” image (such as the dubbed screaming that everyone else has pointed out).

The portrayal of women in this film also intrigued me, as women were obviously an important part of the film. The first example I was struck with was the story of how Lee’s sister dies. Initially, I thought it was a change in the usual exotic Asian woman image, as she seems to easily beat up the horde of men chasing after her. I definitely was not expecting her to kill herself, and I thought it was interesting that she chooses to do so when Oharra, the sole white man in the group, confronts her. I was kind of disappointed that she chose not to fight, but it seems this was just to set up Lee’s eventual killing of Oharra at the tournament later on in the movie. The part in the movie when Tania goes to each of the fighter’s rooms and tells them to choose from a group of women as “gifts” from Han definitely evoked the sense that they were merely exotic items the men should “experience” while on Han’s island. I thought that the way each of the men chose was very interesting, based on typical racial stereotypes of sexuality. Was this intentional?

Overall, I thought Bruce Lee definitely changed the media’s view of Asian American men from naive, childish people (i.e. “Yellow Man” in Broken Blossoms) to strong men who end up being the heroes in a film. The cheesiness of some of the lines and some of the “overdone” parts of the movie could maybe be attributed to the time period in which it came out. I told my mom I was watching this movie over the weekend and she said that although some parts may seem cheesy now, she saw the movie when it first came out and thought it was awesome.

No comments: