Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Slams Tarantino Over Bruce Lee Depiction In ‘Once Upon A Time…”
ain’t rollin’. He’s not here for any level of disrespect toward his dear friend and mentor Bruce Lee and that’s exactly what he feels Quentin Tarantino’s depiction of the martial arts master is in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
The NBA hall-of-famer penned a scathing op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter tearing Tarantino and his lil film a new one for the racist way he portrayed Lee.
During our years of friendship, he spoke passionately about how frustrated he was with the stereotypical representation of Asians in film and TV. The only roles were for inscrutable villains or bowing servants. In Have Gun – Will Travel, Paladin’s faithful Chinese servant goes by the insulting name of “Hey Boy” (Kam Tong). He was replaced in season four by a female character referred to as “Hey Girl” (Lisa Lu). Asian men were portrayed as sexless accessories to a scene, while the women were subservient. This was how African-American men and women were generally portrayed until the advent of Sidney Poitier and blaxploitation films. Bruce was dedicated to changing the dismissive image of Asians through his acting, writing and promotion of Jeet Kune Do, his interpretation of martial arts.
That’s why it disturbs me that Tarantino chose to portray Bruce in such a one-dimensional way. The John Wayne machismo attitude of Cliff (Brad Pitt), an aging stuntman who defeats the arrogant, uppity Chinese guy harks back to the very stereotypes Bruce was trying to dismantle. Of course the blond, white beefcake American can beat your fancy Asian chopsocky dude because that foreign crap doesn’t fly here.
To his credit, Kareem did acknowledge that he’s a huge fan of Tarantino’s which the director’s stereotypical us of Bruce Lee in the film is so disheartening.
Have you seen Once Upon A Time In Hollywood? Did you pick up on the things that Kareem is troubled by?