Birth of the Dragon: makers of film about Bruce Lee respond to 'yellowface' row

Press/Media: Expert comment

Release date: 17/10/2016

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THE GUARDIAN

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/17/bruce-lee-birth-of-the-dragon-film-cultural-appropriation-row

Dr Felicia Chan, lecturer in screen studies at the University of Manchester, is not so easily convinced: “Bruce Lee is iconic and well-known, and holds near-mythic status both in eastern and western markets. It is not as if his character/persona needs to be ‘explained’ to an audience ... There is something illogical and ironic about depicting the apparently strong ‘influence’ Lee is said to have had in the west by sidelining him.”

In any case, Chan adds, “Lee also had a significant influence on black martial artists and black audiences in the west. It is a complete misrepresentation to continually equate ‘west’ with ‘white’.”

Chan also has little sympathy with the “foreign film” argument, practical a consideration though it may be. “If film-makers so fear the ‘foreign’, then what makes it acceptable to make a film about a Chinese-American (it must be remembered) martial artist and actor who, despite being born in San Francisco, himself struggled with being ‘foreign’ in Hollywood?” Chan adds that Lee had to go to Hong Kong (where he was also considered a foreigner) to get his film career off the ground, before returning to his US homeland as a foreign import/star. “Lee’s own complex career trajectory subverts these cultural binaries and outmoded stereotypes.”

Media coverage

TitleBirth of the Dragon: makers of film about Bruce Lee respond to 'yellowface' row
Date17/10/16
PersonsFelicia Chan

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