racist hollywood has done it again
The news hit the interwebz recently that a Bruce Lee biopic called Birth of the Dragon is moving forward, with George Nolfi of The Adjustment Bureau fame attached as director. The film will be about Lee’s 1965 duel with martial arts master Wong Jack Man, which ultimately was about whether non-Chinese people should be taught kung fu. Though reports vary on the winner, the accepted view is that Bruce Lee won. It’s in response to this fight that lead Bruce Lee down the road to develop his own martial arts style, Jeet Kune Do, after determining that wing chun wasn’t practical for fighting. So the fight has important historical significance. That’s not the problem, though.
The story of the match is told from the perspective of Steve Macklin, a young disciple of Lee, who ultimately joins forces with Lee and Wong to battle a vicious band of Chinatown gangsters.
Yes, this Bruce Lee biopic about Bruce Lee stars STEVE MACKLIN? Who the fuck is Steve Macklin? I can’t even tell if Steve Macklin is a real person because Google is now filled with hundreds of blogs that copy/pasted the original story. There is no Steve Macklin in this list of students of Bruce Lee’s nor on this section about his Oakland school. I can only conclude that the character of Steve Macklin is fake.
Not only that, I can also conclude that he’s probably white. But even if he’s black, it still leads to the same problem, which is we have a movie about an Asian-American, probably the most famous Asian-American ever, and it can’t even have an Asian star. It’s got to be about a white guy! Did the producers of the The Last Airbender film suddenly get put in charge?
Did I miss an important piece of pop culture where instead of people of all races wearing Bruce Lee shirts and putting up Bruce Lee posters for 40 years, everyone has been wearing Steve Macklin shirts? Again, who the fuck is Steve Macklin?
A Bruce Lee biopic is the last place I would expect yet another example of Hollywood’s reluctance to cast Asian males in leading roles. The Last Airbender is the most famous example of recent casting that eliminates minority roles (and thus spawned that racebending term), other examples include Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, the film 21 (the guy who wrote the book the film is about is Asian, but white in the film), Mike Myers as an Indian in The Love Guru (shudder!), and Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince of Persia.
The fact that I’m writing this soon after a weekend where a female-lead movie (Maleficent) did $70 million, followed by a weekend where the female-driven The Fault in Our Stars and Maleficentdemolished Tom Cruise’s latest action vehicle at the box office, is especially weird. We can have films with non-white male leads that make money! There are plenty of awesome Asian-American and Asian actors would would make great leads.
A bunch words written on TarsTarkas.NET by some guy with a computer won’t change how Hollywood does business. But it does add to the voices who are pushing back against stupidity. And it is stupid as hell to have a Bruce Lee movie where Bruce Lee isn’t the main character. So who the fuck is Steve Macklin? Someone people DON’T want a movie about!
(No offense to the actual Steve Macklins out there who have nothing to do with this film.)