‘Before Bruce Lee, There Were Just No Asian American Heroes’

The PBS series Asian Americans, in the episode titled Good Americans, gives screen time to that legendary actor and martial arts fighter Bruce Lee, highlighting his importance in American culture when he emerged in the 1960s.

Writer Jeff Chang, who is currently at work on a biography about Bruce Lee, had this to say about Lee’s rise to stardom in Episode 3 of Asian Americans:

Jeff Chang: The culture is waiting for this moment to shift on its axis. We needed to have at that particular moment somebody who epitomizes the search for truth, for justice. We needed to have somebody who was going to stand up for us.

Before Bruce Lee, there were just no Asian American heroes. For Asian Americans, there was a sense of, finally. Finally there’s somebody up on the screen who is as strong as we are. Somebody that embodies the kind of power you know that we’re capable of.

The celebrity Randall Park of Fresh Off The Boat surely spoke for millions when he put into words just how much Bruce Lee meant to him growing up:

Randall Park: I first saw a Bruce Lee movie when I was a kid, super young, and I remember just being mesmerized by this guy. And I don’t think it was because he was Asian, because he had an Asian face. It was just because he had so much charisma and confidence. I was obsessed with him. I watched his movies over and over again and afterwards wanted to fight my brother, because I wanted to be him.

You can watch the full (but brief) segment on Bruce Lee at the end of Episode 3, Good Americans, for the PBS series Asian Americans (available only to viewers in the US for free streaming until June 9, 2020):

“Raided” of a Good Role: Daniel Wu in “Tomb Raider” Deserved More in the Movie

When I heard that Daniel Wu of “Into the Badlands” would star with Alicia Vikander in “Tomb Raider,” the latest reboot of the “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” series, the movie immediately became one of my must-see films for 2018. I love a good action movie, especially if the film is reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films that have become personal classics. Add to that the fact that they cast a Chinese-American man opposite the white female lead – and in an action movie, no less. Plus, this is 2018, a year that has witnessed progress in representation with the release of “Black Panther” and the forthcoming film “Crazy Rich Asians.” So I hoped this might be another push from Hollywood to open up better roles to, in this case, Asian male actors.

First, the positive – “Tomb Raider” is great entertainment, especially for anyone looking for a fun movie to while away your summer afternoon or evening. Vikander makes for a terrific Lara Croft. And in the era of #MeToo, where women’s empowerment is taking center stage, it’s refreshing to see a young woman kicking some serious butt and fearlessly embarking on archeological adventures in the style of Indiana Jones. While the film loses a bit of its momentum in its second half, I still found it solidly entertaining and worth the time. My husband and I are both hungry for the sequel.

Daniel Wu, who stars as Lu Ren, is another story.

A Forbes critic called his performance “winning if underused,” which underscores the problem here. Without giving too much away, Wu’s character functions more as a means to a destination than anything else – and once there, he largely faded into the background.

Meanwhile, Daniel Wu is the first leading man in a Lara Croft movie who isn’t her love interest. A writer for Time noted, that, in past movies, “every time any man tries to work up the courage to ask Lara out in the movie, she’s already biking away on to another adventure,” which doesn’t happen here. I’m all for more movies starring women who aren’t defined by their romantic lives. But still, you can’t help but notice the filmmakers made this choice when they cast an Asian man opposite Croft. It’s like business as usual for Hollywood, yet another asexual Asian guy in the movies. In some ways, Daniel Wu’s presence feels like a cheap attempt to appeal to moviegoers in the growing China film market, which overtook the US earlier this year to become No 1 in the world.

Given that the Lara Croft movies never stick with the same leading men, I don’t expect we’ll see Daniel Wu in any sequels. It’s a shame. They could have done so much more with the star of “Into the Badlands,” a brilliant show on AMC (that, incidentally, isn’t getting the promotional attention it deserves).

Here’s wishing that, if the producers want to continue courting the Chinese market with more Asian actors, they might actually allow these Asian leading men to inhabit full-bodied characters that can truly complement Vikander’s Lara Croft.

Have you seen “Tomb Raider“? What did you think of the film?

P.S.: This post includes links to Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.

5 Reasons You Must See Hayden Szeto in “The Edge of Seventeen” – Pub’d on WWAM Bam

The group blog WWAM Bam (Western Women & Asian Men – Breaking All Molds) just published my post titled 5 Reasons You Must See Hayden Szeto in “The Edge of Seventeen”. Here’s an excerpt:

Whenever I think of Hollywood teen movies, I cringe.

It’s bad enough that white actors get all the best roles, with almost no exceptions. But a Hollywood teen movie also gave the world one of the most racist, stereotypical portrayals of Asian men ever – Long Duk Dong in the John Hughes’ movie Sixteen Candles. Talk about one enormous “screw you” to the whole Asian community, including the many talented Asian male actors out there who deserve better roles and representation.

Thank goodness for the new teen movie The Edge of Seventeen, just released in late 2016.

The film features one of the most refreshingly unstereotypical portrayals of an Asian man in a teen movie – the breakout role of Erwin Kim, played by Hayden Szeto.

And surprisingly, The Edge of Seventeen even shares some common ground with, of all movies, Sixteen Candles (Vanity Fair noted “Steinfeld’s character is derivative of Molly Ringwald circa Sixteen Candles”). Who’d have thought?

If you’re hungry for a good teen movie, one with a positive portrayal of an Asian guy, you must see The Edge of Seventeen, featuring Hayden Szeto. Here are 5 reasons why:

To find out those five reasons — and feast your eyes on some cool GIFs at the same time — head on over to WWAM Bam to read the full article.

Yangxifu Pride: 6 Romantic Movies That Should Have Featured Chinese Men and Western Women in Love

Like Crazy the movie
Six romantic movies that should have had Chinese men and Western women in love, including the recent film, "Like Crazy."

I’m a big fan of You Offend Me, You Offend My Family — maybe even more so, ever since I started reading their series called Movies that Should Have Starred Asians. After all, some of the movie changes they suggested would have created an Asian man/non-Asian woman love story.

They got me thinking, what other romantic movies should have had the sort of Chinese men-Western women romances at the heart of this blog? Here are six to start off with (including one nod to You Offend Me, You Offend My Family, who inspired this list).

P.S.: While it seems odd to file this under “Yangxifu Pride,” I see this post as empowering us out there to reimagine Hollywood into something more yangxifu friendly, even if that’s still decades away.

Continue reading “Yangxifu Pride: 6 Romantic Movies That Should Have Featured Chinese Men and Western Women in Love”

Ask the Yangxifu: Books with Chinese Men and Western Women in Love

Books such as Foreign Babes in Beijing feature Chinese men and Western women falling in love. (image from http://www.goodreads.com)
Books such as Foreign Babes in Beijing feature Chinese men and Western women in love.

In lieu of the usual Q&A, I decided to do a post is inspired by a previous Q&A. Specifically, the question I answered two weeks ago about movies with Chinese men and Western women — since many movies owe their existence to books, that ultimate writer’s labor of love (including at least two of the movies on that list). And, even if it is cliche to write this, well, the book usually IS better than the movie. 😉

So, here’s a list of all the books I can think of with Chinese men and Western women in love:

As the Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong

As Katherine struggles to care for two children in New Zealand in the wake of her husband’s death, she discovers love with the Chinese shopkeeper — but must keep it secret because of the racism and prejudice of this era, just on the brink of World War I. Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Books with Chinese Men and Western Women in Love”

Ask the Yangxifu: Movies with Chinese Men and Western Women in Love

Yes, sometimes the Chinese man does get the Western woman in the movies -- such as in "For All Eternity."
Yes, sometimes the Chinese man does get the Western woman in the movies -- such as in "For All Eternity." (image from Amazon.com)

B asks:

I was wondering because you often mention about Hollywood and the lack of Chinese men getting the girl. Can you think of any other movies to recommend where a foreign girl gets together with a Chinese or even an Asian male. All I can think of is Shanghai Kiss, Mao’s Last Dancer and the other one Ramen Girl is in Japan so it’s kind of not the same.

My friend told me about a movie aired on CCTV in Chinese about a rich American woman who falls for a peasant Chinese man but she forgets the name of it. Do you happen to know it? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Movies with Chinese Men and Western Women in Love”