Bruce Lee's Daughter Blasts Quentin Tarantino's Portrayal of Her Father 'as a Dispensable Stereotype'

Shannon Lee is defending her father’s legacy against what she says are “continued attacks, mischaracterizations, and misrepresentations”

Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee, Quentin Tarantino
(from L to R) Shannon Lee; Bruce Lee; Quentin Tarantino . Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty; Getty; Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee is pushing back against Quentin Tarantino's recent comments about the late martial artist and actor.

In a guest column published by The Hollywood Reporter, Shannon responded to Tarantino's comments about her father while he was on The Joe Rogan Experience earlier this week.

Tarantino, 58, was asked about the criticism regarding his depiction of Bruce getting easily knocked down by Brad Pitt's character Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood to which the director said, "I can understand his daughter having a problem with it—it's her f---ing father, I get that. Everybody else: go suck a d---."

Shannon, 52, expressed disappointment in Tarantino's comments, saying the director had helped Hollywood in perpetuating her father "as a dispensable stereotype."

"If only he'd take the name Bruce Lee off his lips now," she writes, calling Tarantino's depiction of her father in the Oscar-winning film "inaccurate and unnecessary to say the least."

"And while I am grateful that Mr. Tarantino has so generously acknowledged to Joe Rogan that I may have my feelings about his portrayal of my father, I am also grateful for the opportunity to express this: I'm really f---ing tired of white men in Hollywood trying to tell me who Bruce Lee was," she adds.

A rep for Tarantino did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

"I'm tired of hearing from white men in Hollywood that he was arrogant and an a--hole when they have no idea and cannot fathom what it might have taken to get work in 1960s and '70s Hollywood as a Chinese man with (God forbid) an accent, to try to express an opinion on a set as a perceived foreigner and person of color," Shannon continues. "I'm tired of white men in Hollywood mistaking his confidence, passion, and skill for hubris and therefore finding it necessary to marginalize him and contributions."

"I'm tired of white men in Hollywood finding it too challenging to believe that Bruce Lee might have really been good at what he did and maybe even knew how to do it better than them," she writes.

Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee. Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock

Shannon adds, "And while we're at it, I'm tired of being told that he wasn't American (he was born in San Francisco), that he wasn't really friends with James Coburn, that he wasn't good to stuntmen, that he went around challenging people to fight on film sets, that my mom said in her book that my father believed he could beat up Muhammad Ali (not true), that all he wanted was to be famous, and so much more."

Shannon notes that she doesn't believe her grievances apply "to all white men in Hollywood," but that opinions about her father "might be colored by personal or cultural bias, and that there's a pattern."

"Look, I understand what Mr. Tarantino was trying to do. I really do," Shannon writes. "Cliff Booth is such a bada— and a killer that he can beat the crap out of Bruce Lee. Character development. I get it. I just think he could have done it so much better."

"But instead, the scene he created was just an uninteresting tear-down of Bruce Lee when it didn't need to be. It was white Hollywood treating Bruce Lee as, well, white Hollywood treated him — as a dispensable stereotype," she adds. "But that was Mr. Tarantino's creative device that he chose, so he initially claimed, though now he seems to be arguing that this is actually an accurate portrayal of Bruce Lee and is what would have happened if indeed Cliff Booth (a fictitious person) and the real Bruce Lee (if he were a mediocre, arrogant martial artist) had squared off."

Shannon, who has managed her father's legacy for 21 years and wrote the book Be Water, My Friend about her father's teachings, pointed out that Tarantino's "continued attacks, mischaracterizations, and misrepresentations of a trailblazing and innovative member of our Asian American community" are "not welcome" at a time when Asian Americans are facing increasing racial attacks.

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"Mr. Tarantino, you don't have to like Bruce Lee. I really don't care if you like him or not. You made your movie and now, clearly, you're promoting a book," she writes. "But in the interest of respecting other cultures and experiences you may not understand, I would encourage you to take a pass on commenting further about Bruce Lee and reconsider the impact of your words in a world that doesn't need more conflict and fewer cultural heroes. Under the sky, under the heavens, we are one family, Mr. Tarantino, and I think it's time for both of us to walk on."

During Tuesday's episode of Joe Rogan's podcast, Tarantino said the scene is "obvious" in its declaration "that Cliff tricked [the character of Bruce, played by Mike Moh]. That's how he was able to do it; he tricked him."

Tarantino explained the moment is more fleshed out in his new novelization of the film and that Pitt's character, a stunt double, deliberately manipulates Lee in a way that leads to the moment where the character of Bruce careens into a stationary car.

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The Pulp Fiction filmmaker spoke about Lee's history in the film industry and expressed affection for what he perceived as Bruce's "disrespect for [American] stuntmen" working on his films. (Tarantino did not note that Lee was Chinese American and born in San Francisco.)

"He was always hitting them with his feet, it's called tagging, when you hit a stunt man for real," Tarantino told Rogan.

However, Lee biographer Matthew Polly previously told Esquire that "Bruce was very famous for being very considerate of the people below him on film sets, particularly the stuntmen," and, with regard to Tarantino's depiction, "that's just not who Bruce Lee was as a person."

If you've been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident here. To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.

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