Chinese netizens furious about Tarantino’s tarnishing of Bruce Lee in new film

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/31 15:12:50

A visitor snaps a photo with a wax statue of martial arts master Bruce Lee performing a flying kick at the Madame Tussaud's on Qianmen Street in Beijing. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Chinese fans of Bruce Lee showed strong support for Lee's daughter, who slammed Quentin Tarantino's new film, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, for depicting the late kung fu star as "an arrogant a**hole full of hot air."

The film was about a washed-up television actor played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his stuntman played by Brad Pitt striving to achieve fame and success in the film industry in the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles, film site IMDb reported. 

It was released in the US on July 26.  

Throughout the movie, Bruce Lee comes off as an arrogant windbag desperate to pick fights with others. 

And he was depicted as a person who picked fights with everyone who will humor him - before finally getting beaten by Pitt's character, Cliff Booth. 

Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee's daughter, saw the film over the weekend and told entertainment and media news website The Wrap that it's disheartening to see her father portrayed as an arrogant blowhard, because as an Asian-American in 1960s Hollywood, he had to work much harder to succeed than the fictional, white protagonists in the film.

She added: "I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn't need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive."

The report triggered heated discussions on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform, with many saying that the depiction disrespects Lee, who is considered the "pride of Chinese," and is tinted with white supremacy and racism, which may have an impact on the film's release in the Chinese mainland. 

The film's distributor, Sony Pictures, and one of its producers, Beijing-based Bona Film Group, did not reply to the Global Times as of press time.  

The hashtag "Bruce Lee's daughter disheartened with Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood" on Weibo had been viewed nearly 300 million times as of press time.

"I just watched the film the day before yesterday and have to say that Bruce Lee was tarnished so much," a Weibo user said. 

"Many foreigners see Bruce Lee as just a Chinese with good kung fu skills. They would be misled by the character in the film," said another. 

Bruce Lee is not only a kung fu star but also a symbol of Chinese spirit and wisdom, so it is not surprising to see Chinese netizens agitated when their icon was allegedly tarnished, Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based critic, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Some netizens said that the film's production team should have contacted Lee's daughter to get her approval for her father's depiction in the film out of respect.  

Others defended Tarantino, suggesting that the way he portrayed Lee in the film may be his way of saluting Lee. 

Shi also said Tarantino paid tribute to Lee's last movie, The Game of Death (1978), in Kill Bill Volume 1 in 2003 and Volume 2 in 2004. "So it's hard to judge as we have not seen the whole movie yet."

In an interview with Chinese media in May at the Cannes Film Festival, Tarantino said he was a "huge Bruce Lee fan."

"Bruce Lee was not trying to hurt anybody, but he has some arrogance about him. If I was Bruce Lee, I would be arrogant, too," he said in the interview. 

Bruce Lee was widely viewed by Chinese people as a cultural icon who fought for equality and started a new martial art style. 

He was born in 1940 in San Francisco and died in 1973 in Hong Kong while shooting The Game of Death for unknown reasons. 

Newspaper headline: Tarantino film ‘smears’ Bruce Lee image

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