This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. How long has it been since one of these showed up? Approaching four months, really? Well, I’ve last Monday’s meme to at least chide another memory download to the surface. Why the following clip showcased my selection for favorite martial arts film (and reaching its 45th anniversary).
September 9, 1972: You can never tell when something is going to change your outlook. During the ’60s that upheaval came by way of the Civil Rights Movement. Broadened the view I’d been raised with since coming to live in my grandmother’s house at age four. A perspective of assimilation, as it were. My mother’s parents, being first-generation immigrants from Mexico, sought acceptance. Wanting their children to have better than they, the embrace of language and culture now paramount.
There’s another term for it in spanish…1
- Pocho |ˈpɒtʃəʊ | informal, often derogatory
- noun (plural pochos | feminine pocha)
- a term used by Mexicans (frequently pejoratively) to describe Chicanos and those who have left Mexico. Stereotypically, pochos speak English and lack fluency in Spanish.
Things cultural get tossed in such a bargain for a better life, if no different than other emigrant tales that landed upon these shores. All things “American” encouraged, and what that encompassed as everything else tamped down. For this relatively young country, an age-old proviso. Transitioning during the Sixties brought change, which shook that, and encouraged discourse among mine who sought to understand what it meant to be “Latino”, or derisively among my elders, “Chicano.”
Fast-forward to the year I graduated high school, about to enter my first Fall semester at junior college. The first college course on the docket was what is today known as The Mexican-American in the History of the United States (UC:CSU 3 credits2). Building back in what had been discouraged, but realizing something else. Being American of Mexican descent, not “Mexican” enough by some south of the border and not fully “American” by many north of it. A citizen of two worlds but not really of either.
Took some getting used to…and ganas.
Still, some things hard to alter, especially in pop culture. So many concepts and ideals embedded as good or bad by way of the popular arts. Becoming what we perceive as archetypal. Since a young age, heroes on the big or small screen looked like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, or lately, Clint Eastwood. Those like Gilbert Roland, later Edward James Olmos, today Michael Peña, less than leading men3 in the eyes of most studio heads, movie ticket buyers…even me back then, as I came to realize.
But all revised this weekend by another of the hyphenated and dual cultured4. Bruce Lee a name well-known by plenty my age care of his memorable stint as “Kato” in the ’60s Green Hornet series. So when his new film with all the buzz, The Chinese Connection5, opened at the Huntington Park Warner Theatre, found myself sitting right there. In awe of someone who looked nothing like John, Gary, or Clint; breaking the mold in this country, and in my head, “…of who the default lead had to be.”6
- Many in the Mexican-American community have embraced the term Pocho to express a pride in having both as a distinct heritage. ↩
- Transfer credit to the University of California or California State University. ↩
- Even movie roles depicting Indigenous People were portrayed historically by heroic white actors; for instance, Burt Lancaster in Jim Thorpe — All American, Apache, and Valdez is Coming. ↩
- Born in Chinatown, San Francisco, raised in Kowloon, Hong Kong; moved back to the U.S. at age 18, developed his education and martial art, and returned to Hong Kong where he attained international stardom in feature film and beyond. ↩
- In Asia, originally called Fist of Fury, the film released in the U.S. under this title; inanely, as a means of tapping the popularity of another film out the year before, The French Connection. ↩
- We’d only have Bruce for a few months longer, but a lifetime crammed in there still reverberates to this day proud to say. ↩