Bruce Lee is a name that most of us have come across at least once in our lives. The legendary martial artist and actor has been cited as an important influence by countless people, including notable celebrities like Kobe Bryant, Mickey Rourke, Gina Carano, Dana White and many more. But in an era dominated by new media and user-generated online content, how relevant is his legacy today to a younger and digitally oriented generation?
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, over Skype. Along with also being a martial artist and actress, Shannon is the current CEO of Bruce Lee Enterprises, President of the Bruce Lee Foundation, and the head of production company Leeway Media Group. In an NMR exclusive interview, Shannon talks about the use of new media in spreading her father’s legacy and what we can expect from her new YouTube web series with YOMYOMF. She also shares her thoughts on characters Fei-Long and Law from the “Street Fighter” and “Tekken” video game series and whether there’s any validity to the much-debated “Bruce Lee Curse.” Lastly, be sure to pay extra attention towards the end of the interview as she shares some of her father’s relics on camera!
Here are a few select highlights from the interview:
How is Bruce Lee relevant today?
Shannon Lee: Yeah, I think my father is super relevant today for a lot of different reasons, and our hope is to actually make him even more relevant as we can, you know. Because I also have another company called Leeway Media which is a production entity, and we’re looking into doing more Bruce Lee-related content online, and also through traditional media we’ve been working together with YOMYOMF. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them.
Oh, you’ve heard of them. Of course … to develop some some stuff to do together online and things like that, but I would say just generally from a philosophical standpoint my father is super relevant because a lot of what he was doing and his time is really starting to be part of the everyday culture and the global community today. And where you see things like growth and MMA and the UFC and all that kind of stuff and where you see the world becoming a smaller place and cultures coming together and that sort of stuff, all the things he was really about. And about self motivation and self actualization and all those philosophical tenets of his, they are all relevant today, but I think there was no one else like him. I don’t think or believe that there ever will be anyone like him, and he continues to inspire people, and thats why he’s relevant.
A lot of people blindly idolize your father and put him on a pedestal. A lot has been said about your father’s strengths and talents, but from your recollection and what your family has told you, what were his weaknesses?
He had weaknesses like everybody else. From a very utilitarian point of view he was not good at fixing things around the house [laughs]. You know, he was not handy with his tools and things like that [laughs]. He had a temper. He could get really riled up and fly off the handle and yell, and the good parts being that he could also very introspective so he could calm down and apologize. You know, it all depends. Like my whole thing is I always say our strengths are also our weaknesses and vice versa. So in a way it’s sort of like some people might have said he was way too driven. He was way too this. And well, thats what got him to be where he was at the same time, and sure, on a personal level there were a lot of struggles and in that regard because he was obviously very, very focused and very, very driven, but he was a great parent, and he really loved us kids at the same time, you know. He has to sometimes leave and make money and support the family. I think it’s the same human struggles that everybody has, to be honest. To keep his own issues, his own things in check just like we all do, unfortunately [laughs].
How do you see yourself and your role in keeping up what your father left behind?
Yes and no. I mean, if I’m being totally honest, there are times when I think, well, a lot of things that I want to work on and want to be able to do or want people to see me for me and not see me for Bruce Lee’s daughter, what have you, but at the same time you know that’s not a huge crazy struggle in my life in the sense that I’m everyday like, “Oh, it’s so difficult.” It’s just every now and again. It’s like I love coming to work everyday, and I love doing all this and what is part of what makes me love it is that the legacy to me is so worthwhile. It’s so full of so much worth. There’s so much depth of meaning, so much inspiration for not only the world but for me personally. So I get to come here and absorb the energy of all this and share it out with the world which is something I personally do love for myself, and if occasionally some people are a little bit blinded by my dad’s name [laughs] … that’s really their issue. It’s not really mine, you know, and I will say there was one instance when i was acting in my 20s and I was making a movie in Hong Kong, and it was an action movie, my first like really big action movie, and the director was saying, “Do it again. Do it again,” and then finally he said to me, “Just do it like your dad would do it.” [laughs] I was like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, no problem.” [laughs] Personally, I would be lying if i said there’s never any struggle. It’s always just fine and perfect, but I would say that the benefits hugely outweigh any of those types of things, and I feel very blessed.
Certain video games from this generation have characters that are clear knock-offs of your father like Fei Long from “Street Fighter” and Law from “Tekken.” What do you think of these characters that your father inspired?
What do they say? That inspiration is another form of flattery? You know, I can look at it from both sides. On the one hand I would love for there to be something that we are actively wanting to work on is for there to be a real official awesome Bruce Lee video game, right? At the same time the fact that everybody associates him with the pinnacle of martial arts with the pinnacle of action and cool and that everybody wants to emulate him and their games and pay homage to him, it’s fabulous. It’s beautiful.
There’s been a lot of speculation to date that your father’s and brother’s deaths were somehow part of a conspiracy, and many have dubbed it “the Bruce Lee Curse.” What are you personal thoughts on that?
[laughs] I think that I understand it from a cultural standpoint, I guess. But I obviously don’t think there’s a curse. If I did, i would probably be afraid of leaving my house everyday [laughs] for fear being run down or something. But I think they were two very tragic circumstances that were very different, and it was very unfortunate that they happened to happen for the most part almost exactly 20 years and that it’s easy to grab any similarities and look at something like that. I’m sure there have been many families that had more than one tragedy within them and they don’t call that a curse because they’re not famous and in front of the public eye. So to me it was a very unfortunate thing that happen, and this happened in my family, but it gives me the impetus to keep on going and living my life to the fullest.
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