Shannon Lee does not care if Quentin Tarantino likes Bruce Lee or not, she just thinks it would be best if the director stopped talking about him.
“I’m really f— tired of white men in Hollywood trying to tell me who Bruce Lee was,” writes Lee, his daughter, in a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter on Friday in response to Tarantino’s latest comments defending his depiction of the late Chinese American martial artist and actor in the 2019 film “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.”
“I’ve come across enough of them over the years (and not just in Hollywood) who want to mansplain Bruce Lee to me and use Bruce Lee when and how it suits them without acknowledging his humanity, his legacy, or his family in the process that a bit of a pattern has emerged,” adds Lee, who is also the chief executive of the Bruce Lee Family Co. “I’m … not saying that no one is allowed to have a negative opinion of Bruce Lee. I’m saying your opinion might be colored by personal or cultural bias, and that there’s a pattern.”
On Tuesday, the “Once Upon a Time” director appeared on Spotify’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” to promote the just-released novelization of the film and addressed those who had been critical of its portrayal of Bruce Lee when the movie was initially released. While Tarantino could understand Shannon Lee “having a problem with it” since it’s her father, he dismissed other critics with a bit of vulgar slang.
In “Once Upon a Time,” the fictional stuntman Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt), is challenged to a sparring match by Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). The scene has been described as “disrespectful” and “a mockery” of the real-life martial art’s icon and his legacy.
Shannon Lee was among those who was vocal in her disappointment. “The script treatment of my father as this arrogant, egotistical punching bag was really disheartening — and, I feel, unnecessary,” Lee previously told The Times after seeing the film.
Others, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, weighed in on the conversation that followed. Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a 2019 column for the Hollywood Reporter that Tarantino’s depiction of Bruce Lee was “sloppy and somewhat racist” and called it “a failure both as an artist and as a human being.”
Tarantino, for his part, has continued to stand by his depiction, even going so far as to claim that it is an accurate representation of Bruce Lee, citing books and biographers to bulk up his defense. Lee biographer Matthew Polly, on the other hand, has discredited Tarantino’s assertions and even told Esquire in an interview that the scene in “Once Upon a Time” “is not only completely inaccurate, it turns Lee into a disrespectful blowhard and jerk.”
“At a time when Asian Americans are being physically attacked, told to ‘go home’ because they are seen as not American, and demonized for something that has nothing to do with them,” she writes, “I feel moved to suggest that Mr. Tarantino’s continued attacks, mischaracterizations and misrepresentations of a trailblazing and innovative member of our Asian American community, right now, are not welcome.”