Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Masculinity and Enter the Dragon

            In such a testosterone-saturated film – perhaps by virtue of it being a martial arts film and showcasing nude girls – it is interesting to look at the portrayal of masculinity in “Enter the Dragon.” As Mura said in his piece in Screaming Monkeys, the Asian males are certainly undersexed – or rather, un-sexed altogether. The only direct references to Asians and sex that I can think of throughout the film are 1) Mr. Han and his girls whom he keeps on the island until he deems them dispensable, 2) the men who pursued Bruce Lee’s sister, and 3) Bruce Lee’s refusal of female companionship.

            In the first case, Mr. Han actually calls the women his “daughters” – which can lead to a whole other discussion of greater perversity and complexity – but nonetheless, he is never really seen enjoying the company of women. In the second case, the Asian pursuers are rather easily dispatched by Bruce Lee’s sister with her own martial arts skills, and the only real threat to her is the white man, who ultimately seems to be the impetus that pushes her to commit suicide to preserve some honor in her family’s name.

            The third case, however, provides a more interesting insight into the perception of Asians and Asian males at the time of the movie. As foils, the African-American man – as Mura would have predicted – is heavily oversexed and portrayed as having a rather voracious sexual appetite, taking on several women at once, while the white American Roper (?) gets it just about right with one woman, who tells him in the beginning that he’s “made a wise decision.” Clearly by comparison to these two men, Asian males are undersexed, but in the case of Bruce Lee’s character, this disconnect from sexual desire, etc. seems to stem from self-discipline more than from impotence. In a way this character is the paradigm of the model minority - refusing vices such as women and drinking, not gambling to excess as Roper does, strictly disciplining his student, and restoring family honor by killing the white would-be rapist. He appears to be in complete control over himself, as opposed to Broken Blossom’s protagonist who is hopelessly in love with the female protagonist but is also completely impotent as a lover, guardian, or otherwise. So while the undersexed-ness of Asian males in the film is still unfortunate and a testament to long-standing racism, there may be traces of progress present in “Enter the Dragon.”

1 comment:

Clarissa J. Ceglio said...

Well put. I had similar thoughts on the matter of how Bruce Lee's character represented the model minority and yet at the same time offered an alternative masculine identity that was strong rather than weak.