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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Favorites - Ten Bruce Lee References in Pop Culture

Well, it’s a new year once more. 2016 brought its mix of good and bad like any year does. Let’s not forget that. Here’s hoping 2017 can be a little better than the previous year. As usual for January, welcome to Martial Arts Month. Yeah, it’s such an original title, I sarcastically say. Every year around this time, I look at the various things in movies, games, or TV that involve the martial arts. I barely know any styles myself but I’ve always had a love for this stuff.

 I thought I’d start the month with the one who started it all for me: Bruce Lee. Yeah, it always comes back to him in one way or another. He was one of the most influential martial artists in that he introduced the wider world to martial arts and Asian culture in general. Even though he left this world too soon, his influence can still be felt today especially in pop culture. He’s been referenced in a lot of places. Heck, he’s even an unlockable character in a UFC video game. So, here are my favorite references or homages to the man himself. They come from everywhere including movies, video games, TV, and more.

10. Spongebob Squarepant’s “Karate Island”

Yes, Spongebob Squarepants even mentioned an idea or two involving Bruce Lee. In this episode, Spongebob is invited to an island since he somehow became “King of Karate.” Sandy’s suspicious of it all, so she comes along for help. Of course, stuff goes down and we get a squirrel in the yellow jumpsuit. Of course, that wasn’t the only reference to Lee. Sandy has to fight up a building similar to the final fights in Game of Death.

9. Kill Bill Vol. 1’s Beatrix Kiddo

In Kill Bill Volume 1, the Bride (Uma Thurman) donned a motorcycle suit that was really similar to Bruce Lee’s yellow jumpsuit from Game of Death.  That’s where it all ends though.

8. Maxi/Li Long from the Soul Calibur series
Here are two characters from the Soul Calibur series that were influenced by Lee. Yeah, the look isn’t there but something that Lee would to use is there: the nunchuckus. He used them in most of his movies like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. Other than some moves, that’s about it. I haven't played much of these games from the series, but these two stuck out to me.

7. Fei Long from the Street Fighter series
I first ran into Fei Long in Street Fighter 2 or at least one of those many editions. The look is definitely there and he’s yelling from here to there. I don’t know anything about his background, so I don’t know much about the character.

6. Family Matters’ “Bruce Lee Urkel”
Yes, Family Matters even got in on the Bruce Lee craze. Later on in the show, Steve Urkel created a transformation chamber that could basically change his personality into anyone he wanted it to be. Specifically, he’d use it to turn into his cooler ego, Stefan Urquelle. He would use the machine to sometimes become other folk and one of them was Bruce Lee. He originally did it to get back at some idiots in a bar. The show would try that gimmick again with Steve and other characters to less effect. At least someone got to beat up Jason David Frank from Power Rangers… yes, he was in one of those episodes.

5. Jacky from the Virtua Fighter series
Now this is less a reference to his looks and more to his fighting style. You can already see Jacky and tell he’s not looking like Bruce Lee. Jacky is using Jeet Kune Do, the fighting style that Lee invented. Don’t ask me if he’s using it right because I don’t know. I’d use him when I used to play Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution.

4. DC/Marvel Characters
This is also less a reference to a character and more to a few as a whole. Heck, because of the kung fu craze of the 70’s (helped by Lee), characters like Iron Fist, Shang Chi, Richard Dragon, and Bronze Tiger came to be. The more notable references I’ve seen with some of the characters have been in the art. Sometimes, I’ve seen Shang Chi wearing a suit similar to Lee’s or even drawn to look similar to him. Probably the more recent reference I can think of is Iron Fist’s recent costume. The look is definitely there. Then, you apparently had Richard Dragon get schooled by a guy who was taught by Bruce Lee.

3. Marshall Law/Forrest Law from the Tekken series
Marshall Law was the Bruce Lee lookalike for the Tekken series. In Tekken 3, he was replaced by his son, Forrest Law, and he was pretty much Bruce Lee 2.0 too. They had it all from the look to the some of the mannerisms. They had the yells and even sported yellow jumpsuits too. I do wonder about one thing though: what happened to Forrest after Tekken 3? He did come back in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 but that’s all. Oh well, he was just a clone of his father.

4. Liu Kang from the Mortal Kombat series
Most of the fighters from Mortal Kombat were based on someone from pop culture. For example, Johnny Cage was pretty much a John-Claude Van Damme pastiche. For Liu Kang, it was Bruce Lee. The look and mannerisms were there in the first game. Then, they added the yelling for the later games. It’s like someone literally took Lee’s character from Enter the Dragon and threw him into the game. He never sports the yellow jumpsuit which happens everywhere else.

1. Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon
Last on the list is this gem. Unlike No Retreat, No Surrender, The Last Dragon really felt like a tribute to Lee. Leroy Green not only had the moves and different looks down but he also had some of the philosophy down as well. Plus, we even got a music video in there of actual footage from the different movies.

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Well, that's all I got for this list. I don't know if any more references are out there, so if I missed anything, let me know. These were just the ones I knew of. Next time will either be a return the world of  "Brucespolitation" or something else. Until then, Peace, God bless, and just know that boards do hit back when threatened.

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