Shame on you Hollywood! Portraying a movie about Bruce Lee and having a lead role for a white person…
The first trailer for Birth of the Dragon, which recently made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Ostensibly, the film depicts the legendary fight between Bruce Lee (played by Philip Ng) and Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia). But because this is Hollywood, the movie is going to be told from the perspective of a white dude.
Philip Ng plays Bruce Lee
Billy Magnussen plays Steve McKie (basically, Steve McQueen), one of Lee’s students and the one who brings Lee and Wong together. Apparently? Basically, Bruce Lee v Wong Jack Man: Dawn of Jeet Kune Do is just the backdrop for a film described as:
…a San Francisco-set coming-of-age story involving a rough and tumble young white man who matches the feuding fighting legends in the brawl as he pursues a Romeo and Juliet romance with a young Chinese immigrant [JingJing Qu] under the control of the Chinese mob.
Because no one wants to go see a movie in which Bruce Lee battles a legendary martial artist, we have to be stuck with another white savior story? This whole thing reminds me of the lead up to another film featuring a legendary battle between kung fu icons. In 2008, Lionsgate released Forbidden Kingdom, which featured the first time Jet Li and Jackie Chan were in the same movie. And just like Birth of the Dragon, the filmmakers just had to put a white dude in as the audience’s surrogate.
Rather than waste any more headspace on this disaster of a bio-pic (which is a shame because Philip Ng looks to be an excellent Bruce) I’m just going to repost an essay I wrote for Rice Daddies eight years ago that is, sadly, still relevant today.
User reviews on IMDB reverberate with disgust over what this film has brought to the big screen. Here are some of them.
User Bawlife calls it “Hollywood racism galore”:
“Film reduces Bruce Lee into a side character in his own story to force a white guy into the lead. Why is the main focus of the trailer on this silly white American dude? Asian males can never take the lead role. Only the sidekick even in their own movie. It is disgusting. White people, would it kill you to stop inserting yourselves into everything?
“And of course the white guy is dating the Asian girl. Can you stop socially engineer Asian girls to only see white guys as acceptable dating partner? Stop shoving this down our throat. A white guy kisses an Asian girl. Every movie. It’s like they want to brainwash us that Asian girls belong to white men. This turns into a sickening Asian fetish in real life.”
Consciouskendrik complains that the film is nothing but “a disrespectful appropriation of Bruce Lee”:
“Hollywood is racist. This movie disrespects the legacy of Bruce Lee. I highly recommend everyone to boycott this movie. The movie serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes regarding Asian women, men, and the culture.
“It’s perspective forces the viewer to indulge in racism against people of color. The racism is very subversive and is spread by more than just one movie. Movies like these are bountiful in Hollywood(denigrating Asian culture).
“I noticed a very disturbing pattern in Hollywood. They do not want Asian men in the lead role even in their own biopic.”
Nightmarephoenix is just angry:
“I never write reviews for anything, but this time I absolutely had to. THIS IS NOT A FILM. IT’S ANTI-Asian PROPAGANDA. Yellow Peril, 2016 version.
“This entire film is a carefully hidden propaganda piece that portrays Lee as some unsexual, angry, kung fu loser who accomplishes nothing.
“Meanwhile, a white guy actually stars as the main character of the movie, gets the (Asian) girl, and wins the day.
“What? What just happened? A film about Bruce Lee that ISN’T actually about Bruce? This propaganda piece focuses on stereotyping, dehumanizing, and denigrating Asians and Asian culture.
“Of course, that’s no surprise. If you google ‘kulturemedia’ , you’ll find a bunch more examples where western media wages war against Asians in this century. Highly recommend people to avoid this film, and watch ‘The slanted screen’ instead.”
For Udemypreview, the movie is trash.
“I wanted to watch a movie about the legend Bruce lee. Not another white washed movie deleting/altering/hiding his history and Again disrespecting Asians with another white male Asian female interest. Truth is movies spread lies and it hurts societies. In this case. Asian men.
“the lies that Hollywood continues to spread must be stopped. You are creating racists with everyone who watches it. Bruce lee is a legend and you are trying your best to take everything away from him and his people. When will it end? Trash.”
Other reviews reflected the same disappointment and anger toward how the movie missed the opportunity of telling a compelling biopic that is worthy of Bruce Lee’s legacy.
This largely fictionalized film was directed by writer-filmmaker George Nolfi who explained to Deadline why they decided to center the story using young Steve McKee’s character:
“The reality is, Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man did not know each other for a long period before the fight and they weren’t heavily involved with each other after the fight. From a narrative standpoint, you needed eyes on the story that would allow you to have a run up to the fight and… I don’t want to spoil what happens after the fight… but you needed that to get to our third act.”