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Ahead of the Oscars, Asian American watchdog condemns Tarantino nomination due to Bruce Lee portrayal

Fictional stuntman Cliff Booth fights Bruce Lee in a scene from Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.

Ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans has issued a statement denouncing Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar nominations for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood due to the film’s depiction of the late Bruce Lee as “a conceited jerk.”

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood garnered 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, but MANAA is concerned about the Best Original Screenplay nod,” the statement said, “as the nonprofit watchdog organization believes it’s undeserved given the insulting and inaccurate depiction of Asian American icon Bruce Lee.”

MAANA is an organization that advocates for “balanced, sensitive, and positive” depiction and coverage of Asian Americans. Founded in 1992, it meets annually with the top four television networks to push for more inclusion of Asian Americans and also promotes that vision with various talent agencies.

The watchdog group says that Tarantino exploited the real-life reputation of Lee to establish the character of stuntman Cliff Booth as a formidable force, adding that Bruce Lee is the only historic figure in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood besides the Manson family members to be depicted negatively.

“Instead of attempting to defile the legacies of others, Tarantino should spend more time considering his own,” MAANA said in the statement.

After the release of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee told The Wrap that she understood the movie was fictional, but added that they didn’t need to treat her father in the way that White Hollywood did when he was alive.

In the statement, MAANA said Tarantino’s “superficial fixation with the East” dates back to the early 2000s Kill Bill films, which the organization asserts demonstrate an appreciation of Asian culture and aesthetics but not of Asian people and bodies.

Pointing to the portrayals and references in the films True Romance, Pulp Fiction, and Django Unchained, the organization’s statement also identified Tarantino as having a history of demeaning people of color.

“MANAA asks Academy members to take these concerns into consideration as they cast their ballot for both ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Original Screenplay,'” the organization said.

MAANA’s full statement can be read online. The Academy Awards will air Feb. 9 on ABC.

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