If you’re of a certain age and/or possess a certain affinity for Asian American pop culture, you’ll remember the Green Hornet because Bruce Lee starred in the short lived TV version as Kato, the Green Hornet’s loyal sidekick, chauffeur, and friend. Now that it’s going to resurrect with Jay Chou playing Kato, I thought I would take some time to talk about Bruce Lee again.
For us Asian American issue people, the easy assumption to make is that despite the fact that Bruce Lee is/was the undisputed master of the universe and everything that is awesome, American racism prevented him from being cast in his own television show, and instead relegated him to be the overqualified assistant to a mediocre white man.
And it’s true! Blame the studios for not taking risks. Blame audiences for not being ready. If there wasn’t a reluctance to show Asian American men on TV, why could Bruce Lee only land supporting roles and bit parts in the United States, especially when he made it so big when he went back to Hong Kong?
So racism existed and exists. Bruce Lee couldn’t find fame in the United States and went to Hong Kong instead. We can acknowledge that racism without completely demonizing everything it touches. Without getting too angry at the past, we can hope that in the new Green Hornet, Jay Chou gets to be something more than the mysterious kung-fu master who never gets the girl.