Growing up as a chinese American, I was definitely in the category of an Asian American or Pacific Islander. Although, my first time seeing an asian american in the media was watching a Bruce Lee movie with my brothers and sister. The movie was “Enter the Dragon” and was full of martial arts madness for my tiny five year old mind. The amount of butt whoopings that Bruce Lee dished out was mind blowing and honestly made me think my five year old body could do the same things. I had not realized it yet, but this man I was watching on the television was the beast among men. Lightning fast agility and power to back it up was Bruce Lee’s forte. By studying the martial arts and taking principles from each fighting style he would become the founder of his own. Bruce Lee founded Jeet Kune Do and became my idol.
Although, I didn’t know it at the time this idolization of the martial arts master was a representation and a building block for the social construction of Asian Americans in the media. Bruce Lee’s movies depict Chinese culture, but also gave a representation of chinese martial arts. That if you know it you can kick some ass. This representation of chinese martial arts has lived with me my whole entire life. You would not believe how many times I have been asked, “Hey do you know kung fu?”. I mean come on now, just because I’m Chinese does not mean I did a backflip out of the womb and roundhouse kick the doctor in the face because I thought he was harming my mother. Yes, it is an awesome thought that all Chinese children are trained in the art of assassination. But sorry, this positive prejudice perception of martial arts is false.
Bruce Lee and his movies gave America a glimpse into the world of martial arts and Chinese culture. His films were entertaining and paved the way to many martial arts actors and movies, creating a whole sub-culture of its own. His inspiration gave birth to many other movie stars, such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li that we watch in movie theaters today. Though many representations of male Asian Americans in media are usually either as a nerdy mathematician or a martial arts phenom I hope in the future male asian americans will get there big break and start getting roles that have an Asian American identity.