Shannon Lee has published a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter responding to Quentin Tarantino’s latest criticisms of her father, Bruce Lee. In a viral interview on “The Joe Rogan Experience” this week, Tarantino stood by his controversial depiction of the acting icon in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and noted the real Bruce Lee “had no respect for American stuntmen.” Shannon has been an outspoken critic of Tarantino’s depiction of her father since the 2019 release of “Hollywood,” calling it an “irresponsible” stereotype that has created lasting negative views of Bruce.
“Where I am coming from is, I can understand his daughter having a problem with it. It’s her fucking father. I get that,” Tarantino told Joe Rogan this week. “But anybody else, oh suck a dick!”
To this statement, Shannon Lee writes, “While I am grateful that Mr. Tarantino has so generously acknowledged to Joe Rogan that I may have my feelings about his portrayal of my father, I am also grateful for the opportunity to express this: I’m really fucking tired of white men in Hollywood trying to tell me who Bruce Lee was.”
Shannon writes earlier in the guest column: “Why does Quentin Tarantino speak like he knew Bruce Lee and hated him? It seems weird given he never met Bruce Lee, right? Not to mention that Mr. Tarantino happily dressed the Bride in a knock-off of my father’s yellow jumpsuit and the Crazy 88s in Kato-style masks and outfits for ‘Kill Bill,’ which many saw as a love letter to Bruce Lee. But love letters usually address the recipient by name, and from what I could observe at the time, Mr. Tarantino tried, interestingly, to avoid saying the name Bruce Lee as much as possible back then.”
The bulk of Shannon’s column finds her taking “white men in Hollywood” to task for calling her father “arrogant and an asshole when they have no idea and cannot fathom what it might have taken to get work in 1960s and ’70s Hollywood as a Chinese man.” Shannon adds, “I’m tired of white men in Hollywood mistaking his confidence, passion, and skill for hubris and therefore finding it necessary to marginalize him and his contributions.”
Tarantino has defended the Bruce Lee in “Hollywood” from the start by noting the fight between the film version of Bruce (Mike Moh) and fictional character Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is hand to hand combat, which happens to be Cliff’s specialty. As Tarantino told Rogan this week, “If Cliff fought Bruce Lee at a Madison Square Garden martial arts tournament, he would not stand a chance. But as a killer who has killed men before in a jungle, he would kill Bruce Lee. He’d fucking kill him! Bruce Lee is not a killer.”
“I understand what Mr. Tarantino was trying to do,” writes Shannon. “Cliff Booth is such a badass and a killer that he can beat the crap out of Bruce Lee. Character development. I get it. I just think he could have done it so much better. But instead, the scene he created was just an uninteresting tear-down of Bruce Lee when it didn’t need to be. It was white Hollywood treating Bruce Lee as, well, white Hollywood treated him — as a dispensable stereotype.”
Shannon adds that Tarantino’s continued criticisms of Bruce are especially not welcome right now “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.”
Shannon concludes: “Mr. Tarantino, you don’t have to like Bruce Lee. I really don’t care if you like him or not. You made your movie and now, clearly, you’re promoting a book. But in the interest of respecting other cultures and experiences you may not understand, I would encourage you to take a pass on commenting further about Bruce Lee and reconsider the impact of your words in a world that doesn’t need more conflict and fewer cultural heroes.”
Read Shannon Lee’s full guest column on The Hollywood Reporter’s website.
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