Reconstructing Masculinity in the Face of Adversity
Through portrayed resistance of foreign domination, The Chinese Connection builds a heroic masculine Chinese identity that revisions China's past. As the film opens, the narrator informs viewers of what the story will be about: the death of a martial arts master in rural China. However, by calling attention to the many rumors regarding master Ho's death, the narrator is essentially emphasizing the unreliability of the story, thus raising the audience's awareness of the tale as a self-conscious reconstruction of the past.
As Chen Lung (Bruce Lee) is the character who kills the two cooks, the Japanese martial arts master, and the Russian boxer; Chen represents the only oppositional force against Japan. This seems to largely represent the anti-Japanese sentiment many felt during the Japanese invasion in World War II. He can thus be viewed as the hero and savior of the Chinese from the country's past political wounds. Such historical references would seem to confirm the collective struggle of the Chinese against imperialism; and it follows that such resistance, coupled with violence against the oppressor, would provide a sort of catharsis for a people with a long history of suffering by the hand of foreign powers.
If one takes as true the premise that the Western world has historically viewed China as a weak, even feminine force; the violence of Chen in the film would seem to serve as a means to regenerate a masculine, assertive identity - an identity that ought to be seen as a formidable force in history.
Mr. Woo, an effeminate interpreter working for the Japanese, is the character who leads the Japanese into the students' territory, and who taunts Chen by slapping him three times in the face. Chen obeys the eldest student's advice to not react through violence, as master Ho does not approve of fighting for its own sake. As Ho clearly represents a traditional notion of humility...