As a kid, I loved watching martial arts movies. Drunken Master starring Jackie Chan was one of my favorites. So when I stumbled across a new old show called Kung Fu starring David Carradine, I was thrilled!
I was eight years old and attending Taipei American School at the time. Each summer, I’d go back to my paternal grandparent’s home in Honolulu. In the mornings before breakfast, my grandparents would let me watch TV. I’d usually just stick to watching the cartoons like Thundercats or GI Joe. But not this particular morning.
The first thing I thought when I watched Kung Fu was why was this show so slow and gloomy? The second thing I thought was why did the main character look so strange? He looked like a white guy trying to play an Asian guy’s role. Ah hah, he was a white guy playing an Asian monk! As a kid, the topics were also too advanced for me, so I quickly lost interest in the show.
It wasn’t until I was older did I learn about the controversy regarding Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee’s widow asserts that Bruce came up with the show’s concept and expected to be cast in the lead role. But Warner Brothers supposedly stole the idea and shut him out. The studio thought it was too risky to have a “non-American” be the lead.
Apparently, Kung Fu was a huge hit with American TV viewers in the 1970s. However, I just didn’t get it as a kid who grew up watching much more amazing martial arts shows in Taiwan and Malaysia.