Authors: Catherine S. Chan
Four decades after Bruce Lee’s untimely death, the image of the martial artist continues to strive in the realms of popular culture and international society. As an acknowledged martial artist, film star and sometime philosopher and writer, Bruce Lee is commonly credited for transforming the conventional Fu Manchu portrait of Chinese people in the eyes of Westerners to that of a respectable Kung Fu master.
Stripping Lee clean of the yellow tracksuit and nunchucks, one point remains unbeatable: the image of Bruce Lee sells. This paper seeks to explain and comprehend the influence and success of Bruce Lee through the concept of celebrity commodification, breaking down the barrier that separates economy and culture by identifying the components that serve to intertwine. From the existence of a myth to the norms of pseudo-individualization, Lee’s status as a celebrity-icon shall be analyzed to reveal how capitalist marketing rides on the coat-tail of socio-cultural developments in order to effectively produce a cultural ‘kudzu’ that in turn, aims to persist and cash in for as long as possible.
Keywords: Bruce Lee, celebrity-icon, commodification, popular culture, branding, marketing culture, culture industry