Still no entertainment industry from Asia “suitable” for world tastes?
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Guess it’s what angered and frustrated Bruce Lee until he started kicking down doors to make himself noticed and heard.
The Little Dragon had become tired of playing second banana to the Green Hornet in the American television series of the same name.
Bruce Lee wanted to walk away from playing Kato and take over the world- on his terms- take over the global movie world where Chinese actors have almost always been given roles like the bumbling cook Hop Sing in the television series “Bonanza” or some mysterious and evil Chinese assassin who knows kung fu or the wisecracking Chinese sidekick speaking pidgin English in some lightweight froth.
In the breakthrough television series “Kung Fu”, Bruce Lee was passed over for actor David Carradine who floated through the various plots as the mysterious Shaolin monk Caine who was a master of kung fu and offering Chinese fortune cookie philosophy.
They couldn’t find a Chinese actor for the role, or, as apparently, one of the producer’s of the television series had remarked, “America would not accept a five foot six inch Chinaman”?
Fast forward to today, and where exactly is talent from Asia in the global entertainment arena?
Some will point to the huge popularity of certain K-Pop artists, but how exactly did this happen and what exactly has been the reason for its lasting power other than relentless marketing and promotions armed with humongous backdoor financing?
Over the past few decades, there have been attempts at bringing Bollywood to Hollywood, but other than the Pussycat Dolls covering “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” in English, nothing has really happened.
The East Asian actor or actress is almost always cast as a doctor or tech expert.
Casting directors in the West seem to be walking on eggshells, or trying desperately to be “politically correct” about how and where to “strategically” place Asian or Oriental acting talent, especially when it comes to male-female relationships.
Frankly, they become token gestures which fall into the cliché category.
Thank goodness for Lucy Lu, Pat Morita as Mr Miyagi, and Michelle Yeoh, who moved things up a notch, but that was then and time waits for no one.
Missing today is the new generation of creative talent from Asia- the writers, the directors, designers, the actors and actresses and those music artists who are not an answer to someone somewhere else.
More importantly, who’s there with the vision to see what can be and invest in making this happen- and not in some piecemeal way with too many personal agendas like washing machines at work?
This is why I respect Hong Kong based writer-director Sri Kishore. He went out on a limb and put his money where his dream was and produced his film, “My Indian Boyfriend”.
Especially in a world that boasts “diversity”, there’s more than a certain amount of hypocrisy holding everything back.
Being what’s known as a Dutch Burgher who was born in Sri Lanka when it was known as Ceylon, I see this hypocrisy every day in a city- Hong Kong- that was once described as being “cosmopolitan”.
I still remember how my parents felt about Eurasian actress Nancy Kwan being cast opposite William Holden in “The World Of Suzie Wong”.
To them, the film and its story of a Chinese bar girl working in Wanchai falling in love with an American trying to make a living in Hong Kong as an artist was “taboo”. I still cringe and kinda twitch violently when I hear this word. No matter what anyone says, not much has changed from the days when Hong Kong was a British colony. Let’s just say that there are and have always been the puppets and the puppet masters in big business with all financial roads almost always leading to the oil rich countries in the Middle East. The ENTERTAINMENT world, however, remains bereft of ORIGINAL talent from Asia. It’s something that makes me have enormous respect for the bravery and enormous pride in actors and actresses like Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, the wonderful Sidney Poitier, Rita Moreno, musicians Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and others to fight to have their talents recognised. Mr Armstrong, a brilliant Jazz musician, had to become “Satchmo” to fit in, but he helped open doors. If not for these pioneers, there would be no Motown, Rap, Hip Hop or Black game changers like Spike Lee, Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z, and Sean Combs, all of whom didn’t wait for things to happen. Through their creativity and business savvy, they made things happen- and on their terms. Self confidence is highly addictive. This type of chutzpah is something that’s always been missing in Asia. Bruce Lee might have kicked down doors, but when he looked around to see who was following him, apart from a dim sum basket of clones, there was no one there. There still isn’t. With me being categorised in Hong Kong as an “ethnic minority” and with no one able to explain the use of the word “ethnic”, unless born into money, those like me are very much at the end of the food chain. I’ve had to fight for everything I own as my parents were hardly “well off”. I watched my father and uncle passed over for jobs because they were the “wrong colour”. As a kid going to school in Hong Kong, my mother would apply talcum powder on my face to make me look more “fair”. Though I might have come through all of this relatively unscathed, it hasn’t stopped me seeing through the games played taking advantage of inferiority complexes going back centuries. Where exactly is this “Asian Pride” hiding and suffering from shrinkage? Talk is cheap and there are always the usual divisions and prejudices within the ranks with still no global melting pot of entertainment driven gumbo funk and togetherness. Now is the time for an entertainment industry owned and managed by Asians. It must be one with different business streams offering original creative products from this region- products interesting enough to be accepted by a world without borders. This is not only waiting to happen, it’s long overdue. Perhaps me and my OneTeam need to get the dumplings, the laksa and the samosas rolling? No, let’s get rid of the “perhaps”. We WILL get things rolling. #brucelee #asianentertainmentindustry #oneworld #oneteam #hansebert #hongkong #asiancreative #typecast #lucylu #michelleyeoh #patmorita #kungfu #srikishore