The Bruce Lee portrayal controversy of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kareem-abdul-jabbar-bruce-lee-was-my-friend-tarantinos-movie-disrespects-him-1232544

https://www.refinery29.com/amp/en-us/2019/08/239611/bruce-lee-mockery-once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

At first I was thinking Wow, wtf Quentin. How could you disrespect the guy like that; especially considering all his struggles.

Then after hearing his side, it really makes more sense that he was depicted as the film shows, because maybe he wasn't a saintly, monk-like sage that Jabar makes him seem. Maybe he did have a cocky side, and said some slightly unsavory, less than humble things.

And he's right about it being a fictional story that can be told however the creator wants. He has no obligation to be historically accurate, as the film itself hardly is in the first place. Another thing is, in addition to being fictional, it could also be described as a period piece. As such, it would make sense that the characters are more representative of that era than not, as if pushing a modern agenda.

I had heard Bruce Lee was a bit of a jackass before now, years ago. I don't know how different it is from the portrayal in the movie.

The issue with the whole movie is that is fantasy but using real people's lives as a basis. Its a selling point. At least most of his other movie didnt have too many really peoppe in it, thus not having to deal with this fantastical/ reality juxtaposition

It is not uncommon for friends and family to be upset if their loved ones are not portrayed in what they feel is a respectful manner and is pretty much expected. People often want to control the narrative and celebrate the good in people and are willing to turn a blind eye to the bad rather than just look at the both good and bad in a realistic manner.

The truth is though you are always going to ave someone who disagrees with how someone is portrayed regardless of how you portray them due to how they viewed them being different than how someone else viewed them. People can be an asshole to one person and the best person in the world to another and neither of the people who interacted with that person will ever agree on how they are presented due to having different perspectives. Even if you do manage to show the different sides of the person, people will still feel the part thye did not experience themselves was not accurate.

Yes, Bruce Lee was not perfect. However, we could probably guess that Quentin Tarantino wasn't going to be too interested in being accurate or respectful.

Wasn't that whole thing just a 'dream sequence' anyways of a guy who didn't know him and just assumed he was an ass? It was Pitt's character imagining what might happen if he went to talk to the stunt coordinator despite DiCaprio's character saying to not bother. After the wife yells at him it cuts back to Pitt on the roof being like 'Yeah, nah, lets not'.

Saelune:
Wasn't that whole thing just a 'dream sequence' anyways of a guy who didn't know him and just assumed he was an ass? It was Pitt's character imagining what might happen if he went to talk to the stunt coordinator despite DiCaprio's character saying to not bother. After the wife yells at him it cuts back to Pitt on the roof being like 'Yeah, nah, lets not'.

I took that to be a flashback to show why Cliff(Pitt) shouldn't bother going for the stunt work.

twistedmic:

Saelune:
Wasn't that whole thing just a 'dream sequence' anyways of a guy who didn't know him and just assumed he was an ass? It was Pitt's character imagining what might happen if he went to talk to the stunt coordinator despite DiCaprio's character saying to not bother. After the wife yells at him it cuts back to Pitt on the roof being like 'Yeah, nah, lets not'.

I took that to be a flashback to show why Cliff(Pitt) shouldn't bother going for the stunt work.

Maybe, Id have to re-watch it again, but IIRC, it starts with him having to convince the guy to give him another shot when before DiCaprio's character mentions how he shouldn't bother and that the guy's wife hates him.

Saelune:
Wasn't that whole thing just a 'dream sequence' anyways of a guy who didn't know him and just assumed he was an ass? It was Pitt's character imagining what might happen if he went to talk to the stunt coordinator despite DiCaprio's character saying to not bother. After the wife yells at him it cuts back to Pitt on the roof being like 'Yeah, nah, lets not'.

It was a flashback of Brad Pitt's character remembering why Kurt Russell's character Randy doesn't like him.

Before this sequence Leo's character tells him that he shouldn't bother coming with him to the set because Randy is the stunt coordinator on the shoot so there's no way he's going to give him any work, not after what happened on Green Hornet.

trunkage:
I had heard Bruce Lee was a bit of a jackass before now, years ago. I don't know how different it is from the portrayal in the movie.

Haven't seen the movie, but I am a fan of Bruce Lee. What always struck me about him, his work, his personal history, and his interviews, is he was a quintessential showman. People always forget he was a child film star, award-winning professional dancer, and had college education in drama under his belt (though he didn't graduate) long before he actually taught martial arts in the states, or became a martial arts movie star. He definitely had a ton of swagger and self-confidence, and the level of it he displayed publicly does contradict descriptions of him in private and more sedate moments captured on film or audio, which informs me he worked hard to cultivate a public image of the piss-and-vinegar born fighter.

Hell, one of my favorite things to point out is the footwork for which he's so famous, is the fucking cha-cha; which if anything, just proves the guy wasn't goofing or overselling his philosophies.

The thing is, that flashback scene is very loosely based on an incident during Green Hornet filming that happened. Lee kept roughing up the stunt men, because they weren't trained fighters and Lee wouldn't hold back or pull punches out of concern it wouldn't look authentic. So, producers brought in Gene LeBell who was a trained fighter to work with Lee, and LeBell put Lee in a headlock, threw Lee over his shoulder, and carried him around set until Lee chilled the fuck out. To read LeBell's biography it was more of an on-set goof than anything, and he and Lee struck up a friendship that lasted until Lee's death, and Lee ended up studying under LeBell for years working on his grappling skills.

Which, I wonder if the point hasn't been completely lost in translation. Tarantino's films are always meta as fuck, and play with the concept of perception, cultivated image, and unreliable narration versus reality. His movies are pretty much always more accurately parsed, in my opinion, as statements about Hollywood and the film industry than they are anything directly connected to the film itself. It strikes me as pretty telling, in and of itself, folks are taking a flashback sequence in a Tarantino movie literally, as compared to the perception of Bruce Lee as opposed to the reality.

Eacaraxe:
Tarantino's films are always meta as fuck, and play with the concept of perception, cultivated image, and unreliable narration versus reality. His movies are pretty much always more accurately parsed, in my opinion, as statements about Hollywood and the film industry than they are anything directly connected to the film itself. It strikes me as pretty telling, in and of itself, folks are taking a flashback sequence in a Tarantino movie literally, as compared to the perception of Bruce Lee as opposed to the reality.

This. I'm a Bruce Lee fan myself, as indeed I believe Tarantino to be - ultimately I guess we'll have to wait and see, but it sounds like this very meta depiction-of-a-flashback-of-an-unreliable-narrator's-perception-of-a-memory of Bruce Lee is as much about puncturing the insufferable Cult of Bruce (which Taranino, through various nods and homages, is part of), as it is about scoring mean-spirited and quasi-racist points at the expense of a man no longer with us to defend himself as Abdul Jabbar suggests. In fact I would suggest that the notion that the antiquated, subservient "chinaman" caricature is more dominant in the public perception than the towering persona that was built by Bruce Lee during his life and which only grew, legend-like after his death, is outright naive. Unless of course Kareem Abdul Jabbar is simply race-baiting to stay relevant? He wouldn't be the first or the last to ride the departed Lee's coat tails all the way to the bank.

It certainly wasn't a very flattering portrayal. It also sticks out because Mike Moh's portrayal of Bruce Lee was very notably the only person of colour with a speaking role in the movie at all. So I get where the people taking offense with it are coming from. It's also notable that Bruce Lee, who was as far as I'm aware a mostly uncontroversial and mostly well respected artist, was made fun of while Roman Polanski, the child rapist, got a relatively neutral portrayal aside from wearing a silly costume to a party once.

Actually, and I'm not meaning to go off track here, the lengths to which many actors and directors in Hollywood go to defend Polanski always rubbed me the wrong way. Even ones I respect very much as artists, hell, even David Lynch. There was a petition years ago of artists demanding a pardon for Polanski that included David Lynch, Meryl Sterep, I think Wes Anderson, Michael Mann, Scorsese... and that's such a stupid hill to die on. These are some of the most acclaimed and respected people in the American film industry and would be remembered as such but now they'll also always be "the people who felt that the guy who drugged and raped a fourteen year old kid should be forgiven". Why would you want that on your record?

I believe Tarantino actually didn't have his name on that petition so, you know, good on him. Anyway, I don't think he meant to disrespect the memory of Bruce Lee, though I did think he kinda used him for a quick joke that was easy to take the wrong way. I liked the movie a lot and this doesn't make me think worse of it but at the same time I see why one might take offense with it.

I don't care. Aside from it being historic fiction, the movie is also very much a comedy. Chill out and enjoy the show.

PsychedelicDiamond:
It's also notable that Bruce Lee, who was as far as I'm aware a mostly uncontroversial and mostly well respected artist, was made fun of while Roman Polanski, the child rapist, got a relatively neutral portrayal aside from wearing a silly costume to a party once.

It's not notable at all when you consider the fact that the movie is neither about Bruce Lee or Roman Polanski and Tarantino doesn't owe anyone to portray any character in any particular way.

All this reminds me of that Film Theorists video about Oscars, and argued a source of a lot of Oscar woes (including DiCaprio's) is Hollywood has a systemic bias for movies that aggrandize, whitewash, and/or idealize Hollywood and the film industry in some way. And, that actors', producers', directors, and even at times writers', sins are conveniently forgotten or swept under the rug until/unless socially convenient to do some rug-chuckin'. All under the auspice Hollywood is, indeed, the most systemically corrupt shithole and industry in the country.

Frankly, I think after twenty-odd years, key members of the film industry finally figured out Tarantino's shtick isn't celebrating Hollywood and its sea of double standards and hypocrisies, it's subversively criticizing it.

Yeah I don't care. Movie was pretty good. Dilatory pacing, solid acting, witty dialogue, loved the ending. What had me worried was any kind of glorification of Manson but I think the movie handled that asshole alright.

If anyone has got something to be arrogant about it's Bruce Lee.

My dad had a big collection of Bruce's movies, I was brought up watching him so I have to admit I probably have some bias to hero worship him.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here