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F-ing History Channel

February 26, 2010

Usually, I write my posts with a clear-head, go back and look them over, edit, clarify – to make sure what I put out there is relatively polished. But right now – that’s not going to happen. You’re going to get unpolished, raw, straight-from-my-mind writing. This is the CVT uncut – a look into the mind of somebody who carries the weight of race every damn second . . . hope you learn something.

This will be short and bitter.

Just watched "How Bruce Lee Changed the World," a History Channel special about Bruce Lee’s influence on popular culture, and it made me sick inside.

How they took this man’s legacy – a beacon of strength and hope and positive role-modeling for Asian people (and Chinese, especially) – and made something like this show boggles my mind.

In short, for the makers of this show, when they say "the World," they really mean the U.S. (and maybe a couple European countries). The "experts" they interview about Bruce Lee are a bunch of random white guys who have literally no direct connection to the man. I admit that they actually have a few key interviews with some people of color . . . but it’s LL Cool J, Margaret Cho, the RZA – fine people, all, but what the Hell are they doing speaking on behalf of Bruce Lee’s influence on "the world"? (*1) And where are the Chinese folks? Bruce Lee WAS Chinese, right?

The one segment when the show discusses Bruce Lee’s positive influence on the role of Asian people in Hollywood films? Told by a freaking white male movie critic – as he oh-so-understandingly describes how inspiring it was for Asian people to see Bruce Lee represent strength the way he did in the U.S. Oh, and then some other white guy (a movie director, I believe) tells us how Bruce Lee’s dismissal of "the Sick Man of the East" title for Chinese was so huge . . .

That is the tribute the History Channel came up with for such a influential man!? So poorly written. So half-assedly slapped together. And so insulting to anybody with Asian blood. They might as well have filmed a bunch of Hollywood execs spitting on Bruce Lee’s grave. And then they have the gall to claim (repeatedly) that Bruce Lee "changed how Asians are portrayed in film forever." Yeah – changed it so much that these f-ers didn’t even allow actual Asian people to fill up 10% of the screen time on their ridiculous joke of a "documentary."

This is one of those times when it’s so hard for me to "practice what I preach." I can’t spin this positively. I can’t laugh it off. I can’t move beyond it. I can’t be understanding. I can’t be anything other than angry and defeated.

Because, as a Chinese boy growing up in the States, you’re damn right Bruce Lee was my hero. To see the ultimate badass on screen be a Chinese guy . . . to see people, so many famous people, non-Asian people, want to be like this Chinese guy . . . That was everything. That was inspiration. That was hope.

I practiced walking like Bruce Lee. Wanted to learn to use "nunchucks" like him. (*2) Screamed, hopped from foot to foot, and pretended to kick ass like him. More powerful than anybody – white folks most definitely included. That’s what I wanted to be. That was THE Asian male role model for me (and probably millions of other kids like me).

And these f-ing ignorant fools at the History Channel have to tear us all down by doing this. By making a show about an Asian role model in which white guys who have nothing AT ALL to do with him, who certainly never met him, dominate the discourse about how "influential" he was. In such a way as to make clear exactly how influential he WASN’T – because he – as one man, the lone "exception" – just wasn’t enough to allow Asian folks to gain enough media clout to just talk for our f-ing SELVES . . .

China is poised to dominate the world economy, and, to the U.S. media, "the World" still means white-dominated U.S. culture with a couple of bone-throws to black folks.

This is where all the anger and frustration I referred to in my "Violently Peaceful" piece comes from. This is what it means to be an "other" in the States. To have your lone representative who really "made it" commodified and co-opted by the dominant majority – so they can use her/him as just one more tool to put you in your place . . . as "less than."

Where’s that punching bag when I need it? Don’t want to punch holes in my cousin’s walls . . .

You better believe some lyrics are about to be laid down . . .

(*1) Seriously, I love the RZA . . . and he would probably even agree with me on this one.

(*2) I grew up in the States, so "nunchucks" is what I called them.

(*3) This picture is the best I could find with short notice to sum up how I feel right now . . .

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6 comments

  1. Enter the Dragon was on tv last week and I was impressed by how confident, masculine, and sexy his character was. Honestly it was better than the majority of east Asian male portrayals out today.


  2. Surprisingly enough, saying Bruce Lee changed “the World” is probably a pretty accurate statement. Obviously, as you say, it’s pretty weird that they forgot to get firsthand accounts from China and Chinese people, but in addition, “Bruce Lee” is one of those few names that you can mention almost anywhere and people know who you’re talking about. I have friends who grew up in Ghana & Nigeria idolizing him, for example. Too bad they came up with a great concept and then didn’t follow through on it.


  3. I love the picture at the end. And I totally understand this feeling!!! Especially when people try to reduce my ancestral island of Jamaica to Weed, Rastafarianism, and Bob Marley.


  4. Gosh, how eloquent! I wish I could write like then when I’d get pissed! I totally understand. And as for the History channel…well I take their stuff with a grain of salt (and I LOVE history) because one time they were doing a story on Aztecs and their pyramids and showed a Mayan pyramid which was clearly Chichen Itza. Arg, I was pissed! And how do I know? Freshman year in college I researched Latin American pyramids and built that same one out of clay. But to the blind eye? Just another pyramid. Do some research!


  5. Don’t know if you will view this but I share your views Bruce was the man. I’m including his story in my book about great people who overcame obstacles.


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