Celebrating Bruce Lee’s 75th Birthday with his Daughter and God-Daughter

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On November 24th, Bruce Lee would be turning 75. In his honor, Visual Communications held a celebration and fundraiser: Celebrating Bruce Lee. The night began with the red carpet where the guests of honor: Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s Daughter, and Diana Lee Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s God Daughter, were welcomed, photographed, and interviewed. Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man), who would be moderating the later panel with the evening’s gusts of honor, was also given the red carpet treatment.

After the red carpet, guests were brought in to watch a screening of Bruce Lee: In His Own Words and the extended fight scene from Game of Death versus Dan Inosanto, Diana Lee Inosanto’s father, followed by a Q&A panel with Shannon Lee and Diana Lee Inosanto, moderated by Phil Yu. Lastly there was the celebration, which featured musical performances, a Bruce Lee exhibit, as well as a silent auction.

Through the panel and Yu’s introduction, those who attended got to learn a lot about the man Bruce Lee was, and also why his legacy still goes strong today. Phil Yu gave a very Fanboy (see what I did there) introduction about his personal influence by Bruce Lee, as did Daniel Wu the star of AMC’s new hit Into the Badlands (for the record I’m assuming). The personal stories that Shannon Lee and Diana Lee Inosanto shared were heart- warming and impactful. Shannon seemed a little more reserved when sharing, doing more so to share about her father’s influence and charisma, while Diana would go more into fun stories like when Bruce would yell at his son Brandon for disrupting his and Dan’s training. The common thread though was the depth of Bruce Lee and his larger than life energy that can still be felt to this day.

PhilA trending topic of the night was the recent success of many American Asian television shows, and the general inclusion of more diversity on television. The lack of will to put Asians on television during Bruce Lee’s time, at least Asians with power, was detrimental to Bruce Lee’s life. He lost his home at one point, and had to depend on Linda Lee Caldwell’s income for a while, due to the industry unwilling to give Bruce any worthy roles. Shannon goes into great depth and talks about her father’s frustration of having so many connections to people who could make things happen in the industry yet nothing was happening. Essentially what it boiled down to was the studio executives not willing to produce content with minorities, this would be regularly referred to throughout the discussion as “the powers that be.”

Shannon and Diana gave tremendous insight on Bruce Lee’s philosophy, legacy, continued influence, and on diversity in the industry, as well as some truly heart filled testimonies on the family man and friend Bruce Lee truly was. Bruce Lee is truly a revolutionary figure that had multiple layers. He maybe best known for his martial arts, as he was truly a master, but many overlook the philosopher and artists that he was and which is why his work still resonates today. Diana brought up a number of times how funny Bruce Lee was and how overlooked that was, and Shannon spoke very highly of his other artistic abilities such as: drawing, writing, poetry, jewelry making, and fashion; she also shared that he was not a talented singer, cook, or handy man. The extended version of the fight scene with Dan Inosanto did dabble a bit into Bruce Lee’s humor and writing, as he did write and perform that entire scene.

dianashannonBruce Lee is a revolutionary figure in cinema, who is often only seen as that Chinese guy who made kung fu movies. Essentially his contribution to the world was type casted into a one dimensional fluke by “the powers that be.” On the topic of diversity, Bruce Lee’s success was contrasted to todays in terms of Asians being on screen. Considering it was well over 30 years, it was a general consensus that the progress we have today should’ve probably been achieved decades ago. “The powers that be” however, saw Bruce Lee as an anomaly and wrote off Asians aside from their chosen usual stereotypical roles. Shannon and Diana spoke about their own acting and industry experiences being mixed which limited the roles they could be casted for. However, they found their way through perseverance and influence of Bruce Lee’s philosophies and are both doing very well and furthering progress.

At a time where progress in diversity is finally noticeable, I believe Bruce Lee’s influence and legacy is something that should be included in the discussion. Bruce Lee was, as Shannon put it, an indie film maker who did it on his own before Hollywood gave him a chance. He created films in his vision outside of the system and proved that they would be successful in it. He was a great philosopher whose quotes from his interviews, specifically the Pierre Berton one, are still used to inspire generations of people today. He changed the perception of an often overlooked minority group and showed the world that people are more than their race and nationality. Bruce Lee passed at the young age of 32, however his legacy continues to precede him 43 years later. He is arguably the first to portray Asian Americans in a positive light in American media, opening the doors for many to follow.

panel1I would like to close this out with a bit of how Bruce Lee has influenced me. Before I learned of any presidents or other historical figures, I knew the name Bruce Lee. I watched all of his movies by the age of 8, and have vivid memories of telling others that I’m Chinese and their response being “Like Bruce Lee?” until Rumble in the Bronx came out. I bring this up because of how impactful it is for kids to have someone to look up to and also how widespread Bruce Lee’s influence was. For decades he was a beacon for young Asian Americans, and continues to play a roll in our history and lives today. Without him, we wouldn’t many Asians would not have a strong figure for them to proudly claim as part of their heritage.

I know without him, and Robin Shou, I would likely have avoided the topic of my race as much as possible. He was, and in many ways is, our hero for giving depth to our public perception. He may have been typed casted “by the powers that be” as a kung fu movie star, but his continued presence greatly out shines that label.  I encourage anyone to learn more about Bruce Lee, through his writings and numerous other books about his life, also rewatch his films, and look up other random videos of him on YouTube. From some of the most amazing fight choreography every created, to some of the wisest and most inspirational words ever spoken, there is a lot to gain from knowing and learning of Bruce Lee.

Happy Birthday Bruce Lee!

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