Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, has chastised Quentin Tarantino for his reaction to the criticism over the movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s portrayal of the renowned martial artist and actor.
In a recent interview on Joe Rogan’s Spotify podcast, the filmmaker appeared to dismiss the backlash over Bruce Lee’s inclusion, in which Mike Moh’s version of the martial arts legend is easily knocked down by Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth in a fight, and claimed that he always knew Lee would take issue with it because “it’s her f**king father.”
Shannon reacted to Tarantino’s remarks about her father in a guest piece for The Hollywood Reporter.
Shannon, 52, was disappointed by Tarantino’s remarks, claiming that the filmmaker had contributed to Hollywood’s perpetuation of her father’s “as a dispensable stereotype.”
“As you already know, the portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Mr. Tarantino, in my opinion, was inaccurate and unnecessary to say the least,” Lee said in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. “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 f**king tired of white men in Hollywood trying to tell me who Bruce Lee was.”
When the film was originally aired in 2019, Lee slammed the portrayal of her father in an interview with The Wrap, saying that it was “uncomfortable” to watch and that the actor who portrayed her father (Mike Moh) was “directed to be a caricature.”
Since her father’s death in 1973, Lee has become “used” to seeing him reduced to a caricature, but that most of those cartoon-like depictions of him include “some sort of nugget of love” for him and his work. She said she couldn’t say the same about Tarantino’s films.
“I’m tired of hearing from white men in Hollywood that he was arrogant and an a–hole 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 with (God forbid) an accent, to try to express an opinion on a set as a perceived foreigner and person of color,” Shannon continues. “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 contributions.”
She says, “I’m tired of white men in Hollywood finding it too challenging to believe that Bruce Lee might have really been good at what he did and maybe even knew how to do it better than them,”
She went on to say that she doesn’t think this is true of all Hollywood celebrities, but she has seen enough of a trend to speak up.
“Look, I understand what Mr. Tarantino was trying to do. I really do,” Shannon writes. “Cliff Booth is such a bada— 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,” she adds. “But that was Mr. Tarantino’s creative device that he chose, so he initially claimed, though now he seems to be arguing that this is actually an accurate portrayal of Bruce Lee and is what would have happened if indeed Cliff Booth (a fictitious person) and the real Bruce Lee (if he were a mediocre, arrogant martial artist) had squared off.”
She ended her Friday piece by advising Tarantino to stop answering questions about the film.
“At a time when Asian Americans are being physically attacked, told to ‘go home’ because they are seen as not American,” she wrote. “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.”
“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,” she writes. “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. Under the sky, under the heavens, we are one family, Mr. Tarantino, and I think it’s time for both of us to walk on.”