Birth of the Dragon is billed as a Bruce Lee biopic. But early viewers say the film insultingly focuses on a white character instead of Lee, so they’re giving it terrible reviews. Looks like that Bruce Lee biopic Lee’s family is developing is needed more than ever.
Next Shark rounded up the scathing IMDB reviews of Birth of the Dragon, which stars Billy Magnussen as Steve McKee and features Hong Kong actor Phillip Ng portraying Lee. The film is said to follow Lee’s infamous fight with kung fu master Wong Jack Man. But in reality, pissed off viewers say the film follows McKee as he learns kung fu and saves, then romances, a Chinese woman.
A review from IMDB user chrisleeisworking, who is Asian, reads: “The director has turned Bruce Lee into a caricature. This is spitting on the memory of Bruce Lee. As a loyal fan of Bruce Lee and as an Asian, this film seriously offends me.” IMDB user Bawlife criticized the film for making Lee a secondary character in his own biopic adding, “White people, would it kill you to stop inserting yourselves into everything?” (The answer to that last part is no, considering some people complained Netflix’s Luke Cage is racist because of its predominantly black cast.)
“Film reduces Bruce Lee into a side character in his own story to force a white guy into the lead... Asian males can never take the lead role. Only the sidekick even in their own movie... White people, would it kill you to stop inserting yourselves into everything?” Bawlife wrote. “And of course the white guy is dating the Asian girl. Can you stop socially engineer [sic] Asian girls to only see white guys as acceptable dating partner?”
Birth of a Dragon’s decision to not make Lee the star of his own biopic is not the only controversy around Asian representation in Hollywood. Ghost in the Shell, which cast Scarlett Johansson for the role of its Japanese protagonist, has been accused of whitewashing. Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange has been criticized for its choice to have the character of the Ancient One, a Tibetan man in the comics, portrayed by Tilda Swinton.