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Article

Abstract

In this essay I argue the film Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon (1985) provides us with an intervention into racist Hollywood depictions of Black men through a deployment of what Helen Jun calls “black Orientalism.” The comedic film negotiates satire, stereotypes, kitsch, and fantasy to bring to cinematic life the Black material and representational obsession with Chinese martial arts films. The protagonist “Bruce” Leroy Green, an acolyte of martial arts master Bruce Lee (1940-1973), navigates the pressures of family life, burgeoning love, rivalries, his own martial arts training through non-gender-conforming and non-race-conforming aesthetics, attire, performance, and affect. He is emblematic of an alternate autonomous subjectivity, offering alternatives to hegemonic heterosexual patriarchal masculinity, inflexible and rigid ideas of black masculinity, and demasculinized and Orientalist notions of Asian masculinity. Concurrently, he is able to embody a masculinity that embraces and celebrates qualities that have been traditionally socialized as feminine. Leroy who “fails” at a particular form of idealized black masculinity concurrently “succeeds” in forging an alternative black masculinity that takes its aesthetic, philosophical, and social cues from a fantasized Chinese martial arts identity.

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