By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The second year of the three year Bruce Lee Exhibit at The Wing Luke Museum in Chinatown opened October 3rd. Do You Know Bruce? Breaking Barriers digs deeper into the significance of Bruce Lee and his impact in media during a time of racial stereotypes and barriers. This year’s installation features Lee’s impact in the television and film industry.
Notably, the exhibit features Lee’s work on the television series, The Green Hornet as well as his movies including Enter the Dragon. Lee’s work on screen helped break stereotypes and transformed media perceptions of Asians.
The exhibit features the largest display of The Green Hornet toys and collectibles. Much of the displays from the television show where Lee played the masked character, “Kato” are from the private collection of Seattle resident Perry Lee. “These toys represent the earliest images of Bruce Lee,” said Perry Lee of the toys produced by Greenway Productions. It was the only official licensed company that made Green Hornet toys. Perry Lee started his Bruce Lee collection at a young age and built it throughout the years by purchasing the toys and refraining to open the packages. He also purchased items at trade shows as well as trading items with other collectors. Lee believes that the value of some of his collection range from $200 to $2,000.
One of the more unique pieces is a Wheaties box with the face of The Green Hornet and Kato. The significance of the piece explained Perry Lee was that the photo was submitted as part of a contest where people can send in pictures of their family to be on the cover of a Wheaties box. Someone submitted a picture of The Green Hornet and Kato and it was put on the box without anyone realizing who was in the photo.
As Perry Lee notes, The Green Hornet was on television for only one year and as the collectibles were made a transition from featuring The Green Hornet character to Kato (Lee) began with Kato becoming a central figure in toys and collectible items. Perry Lee points out that neither Lee nor Van Williams, the actor playing The Green Hornet, received compensation for the collectibles that were sold with their characters’ likenesses.
Perry Lee believes that the exhibit provides depth and progression of Lee and his evolution of his career in television and film as opposed to other exhibits.
The widow of Bruce Lee, Linda Lee was pleased with the second of three exhibits dedicated to him. “I am very impressed and thrilled of how the exhibit has turned out,” she stated. “It is so in depth about Bruce and really explains so much about the growth of his career and what he did for breaking down barriers between people and exposing his Chinese martial art to the world and showing the beauty of Asian culture.” Linda recalls Bruce Lee teaching many within Hollywood his martial art of gung fu including James Garner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn. He also taught Warner Brothers chairman Ted Ashley.
With the support of Linda and Shannon Lee, The Wing is the only museum, outside of Hong Kong, to present an exhibition about Bruce Lee.
Do You Know Bruce? Breaking Barriers looks at the depictions of Asians in American media prior to Bruce Lee and shows the impact of Lee in America after his television debut and his movies.
The exhibit includes an interactive station where you can match Lee’s famous fight scenes with the movie. Also, a machine developed in partnership with the University of Washington gives visitors the chance to emulate Bruce Lee’s famous “one-inch punch.” The one-inch punch interactive station allows visitors to test and measure the g-force of their own one-inch punch.
In honor of the opening of the second session, supporters of The Wing broke wooden boards with the word “hate” on it to celebrate Lee’s contributions to social justice, equality and positive affirmation.
The exhibition text was written by renowned blogger, Phil Yu, better known for the web site Angry Asian Man.
“I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan and super-excited about being a part of the exhibit.” Of all the Bruce Lee movies, Yu said without pause that “Enter the Dragon” is his favorite. “It’s my favorite movie, period,” Yu added, “[i]ts Bruce at its best. He’s just an amazing performer.” (end)
The exhibit runs through September 4, 2016. For more information, contact www.wingluke.org.
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.