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Asian American Race, Class, Gender, And Television Action: Vanishing Son And Martial Law

            Although Asians and Asian Americans have been present on American television screens for decades, [1] few television series have featured Asian or Asian Americans in starring roles. Kung Fu (Warner Bros, ABC, 1972-1975), starring David Carradine as Kwai-Chang Caine, featured a white American actor as a bi-racial Shaolin priest in the Old West. Originally conceived as a vehicle for martial arts adept Bruce Lee, the series went to an actor with little physical ability, but with a knack for embodying a Hippie pacifism along with a reluctant, but devastating aggression.
             On the lam from the law, Caine picked up where The Fugitive (1963-67) left off and added a topical resonance with the televised resistance to the war in Vietnam by living like a pacifist, draft-dodger as well as fighting guerilla-style like a Viet Cong, and, in all respects, getting the better of his Anglo-American opponents, while being white himself. Thus, Caine took the moral high ground as a Buddhist priest while embodying the anger of an entire generation. Twenty years later, Warner Bros revived the series as Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-1996) set in modern day California with a plotline involving the police.
             Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid (1984): American action film and television, involving martial artists as heroes, tended to be dominated by narratives revolving around Euro-American protagonists. .
             If the original Kung Fu rode to prominence on the coattails of Bruce Lee and the "kung fu craze- of the early 1970s, then, the revamped series also reflected a new commercial interest in martial arts film represented by the Brandon Lee vehicle Rapid Fire (1992) and a biography of his father, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993).

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