Weighing in at a very dense 210 pages, “Beyond Bruce Lee” is just as the title says. While the “Treasures” was purely about Bruce, this book examines the cultural and historical relevance of his movies, including his philosophies, the politics that influenced his movies, and in relation to the pop culture environment that his movies were created in. Dr. Bowman likes to call it “cultural translation”, something that is ongoing with Bruce Lee’s legacy, and this book digs deep to add context to a very complex man.
When I call this book “dense”, I mean that the content is very heavy and deep reading. It includes chapters on post-colonialism in China and how the locals used pop-culture as their form of protest and nationalism, how Bruce’s movies were influenced by those politics, the philosophies that would shape his thoughts on JKD as well as life itself, the influence of Lee on films after and how he became the archetype for martial arts movies, and much, much more. It’s as if we are in Lee’s mind, learning what he learned and seeing the things that he saw that transformed him into the most recognizable martial artist ever.
While I really enjoyed the section on philosophy, my favorite chapter had to be the section called “cultural translation”. This part of the book adds context to the timeline of Bruce’s films in socio-political terms. Every thing from the physical movements of his body or his facial expressions is examined in relation to his Chinese roots, to the differences in class that is constantly reflected in the movies, this chapters adds so much depth and gets you to look at his films in a wholly different way.
You can order Beyond Bruce Lee: Chasing the Dragon Through Film, Philosophy, and Popular Culture for around $25 new. While I do not want to make this book sound like some pretentious know-it-all item, I believe this book is the martial arts equivalent of Joseph Campbell writing about mythology. We can enjoy Bruce’s movies at a surface level, but when we really dissect them, we can appreciate them in so many new ways, and see how influential they were on a global level. I highly recommend picking this book up if you are a serious fan of Bruce Lee and are not looking for a biography, but rather an intricate examination of what was behind Bruce’s vision and driving force to create and inspire.