Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Influence Of Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee passed away in 1973 but yet his influence is still felt around the world.  In fact there were one event and two videos that celebrated Bruce Lee:

  1. The San Francisco Giants hosted a "Bruce Lee Tribute Night" at AT&T Park.  Fans purchasing special event tickets picked up a Bruce Lee bobblehead doll and there were appearances by Bruce Lee's widow Linda Lee Cadwell and Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee sung the national anthem.
  2. Additionally, to promote the event, the San Francisco Giants created this incredible video:  Bruce Lee Bobblehead vs SF Giants
  3. Lastly, a musician / remixer took part of a 1971 interview Bruce Lee did and made it into a video (song / mp3 also available for free download):  Be Water My Friend! Bruce Lee Remix
All of these Bruce Lee events got me thinking of Bruce Lee so much that I watched the 1971 interview with Pierre Berton.  By all accounts, this is the only interview Bruce Lee did that was preserved: 

In listening to Bruce Lee speak with Berton, I realized that Bruce Lee was not only a positive role model for Asian Americans (then and now) but he was also a spokesperson for Asian Americans.  

When Bruce Lee passed away, most people focused on the fact that Asian-Americans lost a visible icon, role model and the best known Asian-American film star.   While representation is important, I feel that losing Bruce Lee as a voice and/or spokesperson for Asian-Americans was probably greater than any movies that he may have done if he lived.  

It is evident from his interview with Berton that Bruce Lee was a thoughtful and well spoken man.  He knew there was some stereotyping or racism in Hollywood.  Bruce Lee knew some projects might not happen because of his "Asian" (or "Oriental") face.  Bruce Lee didn't openly argue against it but he was going to try and break through those barriers regardless.  

Had Bruce Lee lived, he may have been able to change Hollywood for the better for Asian-Americans.  Even nearly 30 years since his passing, there has been no Asian-American film star that has completely replaced Bruce Lee.   Asian stars like Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat came to the United States and did some films but they were foreign born.   No Asian-American actor has fully replace Lee. 

But beyond movies, the Asian-American community has also lacked a visible spokesperson like Jesse Jackson and others for the African-American community.  If Bruce Lee had lived, I could see him BEING that type of spokesperson for Asian-Americans. Bruce Lee spoke his mind and I would be curious to hear his thoughts on the current state of affairs for Asian-Americans.  

There is a small glimmer of hope.  Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets suddenly became a household name this past year.  While Jeremy Lin is dramatically different than Bruce Lee in personality and temperament,  Jeremy Lin has given Asian-Americans a VOICE like Bruce Lee did so many years ago.  

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