Friday, June 05, 2009

David Carradine: 1936 - 2009

Kung Fu's Kwai Chang Caine ranked right up there with Star Trek's Mr. Spock and Bruce Lee, when it comes to my boyhood idols. David Carradine's passing reminds me of that old martial arts pun, 'walk softly and carry a big kick'. RIP grasshopper.

Update: The objective of this post is to simply (and artistically) mark the death of a man, both influential and imperfect to this blogger, by his nature. It is not a commentary, ignorant or otherwise, on the aggregate circumstances of his life, career, or death.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

I didn't watch Kung Fu until the late 80s. And then I discovered what all my friends in jr. high school had been talking about in the seventies.

Three days ago, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 came from Netflix. I watched Vol. 1 and then woke up to the news.

macon d said...

They say it's not nice to speak ill of the dead, but I'm dismayed by the lack of attention to what Carradine built his career on: yellow-faced racism. Imagine if some recent white actor had spent most of his career in blackface, playing blacked-up characters/caricatures.

Actually, that's not really possible, is it? Because white society has listened and learned that caricatures of blackness, and putting white actors in blackface, is wrong. But white society has yet to realize that about Asian caricatures.

This insightful piece is the best antidote I've seen so far to the syrupy nostalgia of our general, racially blinkered remembrance of "Grasshopper":

"David Carradinne's Legacy of Shame"

James C. Collier said...

Macon, you are entitled to your opinion, but my boyhood admiration of the Kwai Chang character had simply to do with how, as a kid, I felt seeing him, rather than the adult circumstances that got thim there. Should I reject a black-identified Obama because his mixture makes him more acceptable to whites?

macon d said...

Thank you for the response, James. I must say, though, that I find your parallel specious.

I just think that when racism is shrouded by the haze of nostalgia, then that haze should be dispelled by our adult capacities for maturity, compassion, and justice.

Did you read the linked article?

Surely there's a better parallel than the one you provided -- one between, that is, Carradine's "Grasshopper" and the blackfaced minstrelsy that entertained and soothed white audiences, all the way up into the 1940s.

Regarding how you felt seeing Grasshopper as a kid -- did you read the linked Asian American writer's description of how he felt seeing him as a kid? Of how he felt "erased" by the choice of a white actor for the part, instead of an Asian or Asian American one?

James C. Collier said...

Macon, I did read the link and sympathize with (and resemble) the author's feelings. Nevertheless, I learned as a kid, and now adult, that the world comes at us with all nastiness, but we are individuals who must accept compromise to live to fight another day. Obama was elected with the help of a large swath of misguided whites, but those who held their noses and took the votes did so with the hope that those same misguided supporters will someday be able to vote for the right person for the right reason.

macon d said...

Okay James, I still don't see a worthwhile connection here between Grasshopper and Obama, but if that's what makes you rest content with putting off disdain for racist yellowfaced entertainment, so that you can fight another day against something or other, well then you are of course quite free to think and live that way. I'm grateful that a lot of other people who write about and work against racism don't chose to live and think that way.

Anonymous said...

To macon:
Being against racism is to be against whites which would make you a racist but wait you can't be a racist because you aren't white.

macon d said...

Anonymous, that's in part a gross oversimplification, and in another part just wrong -- I am white.

Being against racism isn't being against whites -- it's being against white racism. I hope you can see that difference?