Sunday, March 2, 2008

Race relations in Enter the Dragon

Much more than just a movie with a lot of blood, sweat, and martial arts, I thought that Enter the Dragon subtly commented on a few larger issues than just beating up the bad guy. After reflecting on the film, what strongly caught my attention was the issues of how the film addressed race and the comments it suggested about larger society. The film included Williams who is on the run in America because he fought back against racist white policemen. While this was only one short scene, it struck me as the director’s commentary about the relationship between blacks and whites in the United States during the 1970s. In this case, the white male policemen are depicted as the bad guys whose prejudices corrupt the law. This could have been a social comment on recent events such as the 1965 Watts Riots and other race riots that were sweeping the country.

Also, the relationship between whites and Asians is visible in the scene in which the martial arts guests are aboard the boat on the way to the island. A white man in a blue suit is shown kicking and beating up an Asian servant, knocking the boy’s basket of oranges. This suggests that the aggressive white man thought he was better than the Asian male and looked down on upon the boy almost as if he were a dog. As payback, Lee convinces the white male to take a smaller boat to the island so that they can fight one-on-one. Lee tricks the man and instead forces him to spend the remainder of the trip in the small boat away from the group and at the mercy of the Asian youths who control whether the white male will make it to the island. Maybe the director is suggesting that although there was a racial hierarchy in the United States in which arguably whites held the superior position, Asians can stand up for and protect themselves. Interestingly, it is Lee’s smarts that allow him to prevail over the white man. This plays into Asian stereotypes because Lee uses his brains to be triumphant and not his athleticism. Although this is a movie where Asians are depicted as extremely athletic and strong, this scene illustrates the power of intelligence.

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