This Week's Writing 7/26/19, Plus Tarantino vs. Bruce Lee

I reviewed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood this week as you'll see below. I didn't have space to talk about Tarantino's portrayal of Bruce Lee though, so I thought I'd do that here briefly.

Tarantino's Lee is a preening, egoistic jerk who vastly overestimates his own fighting prowess. He boasts he could beat Muhammad Ali in a fight, but is roundly beaten by Cliff Booth, a nobody stunt man jerk. 

Presumably Tarantino thought he was being funny or clever in showing Lee as delusional peacock. Whatever he thought he was doing, the scene comes off as being deeply racist. Booth repeatedly calls Lee, "Kato," referring to his role as the assistant to the Green Hornet in the television series of the same name. Deployed derisively in this way, the term becomes a racial slur. More, Lee is virtually the only non white actor in the film. Having him put in his place by the heroic cowboy protagonist has ugly connotations.

Tarantino has made no secret of his love of Hong Kong martial arts cinema; the Kill Bill films are one long tribute to the genre. You could certainly argue that his use of Asian sources is a homage. But when he takes the greatest star of Hong Kong cinema and gratuitously humiliates him—well. That makes Tarantino's oeuvre look less like tribute, and more like an exercise in appropriation and erasure. I don't know why Tarantino decided to stage a racist fantasy starring Bruce Lee. It's one of the worst scenes in his entire oeuvre though, and casts an ugly light on the rest of his work.


and this weeks' writing!

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is less a myth than a self-serving lie. (NBC Think)

The House needs to hold hearings on Trump's sexual assaults. (Splice Today)

Josh Hawley doesn't want me in his nation. (Splice Today)

James Brown is still a brand new thing. (Patreon)

The jittery rap of J.I.D. (Chicago Reader)

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