Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee whisky advert becomes a call for Occupy Central

A Hong Kong artist has modified a recent Bruce Lee Johnnie Walker ad to promote the 2014 Occupy Central movement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 1:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 5:29pm

Bruce Lee's daughter hoped that a much criticised recent whisky ad could spread the philosophy of her late father, and it has worked, as a Hong Kong artist has turned the alcohol endorsement into an affirmation of Occupy Central.

Kacey Wong uploaded a parody video of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label ad to his Facebook on Thursday. But instead of ending the late kung fu legend's philosophical animated segment with a close-up of the hard liquor brand, Wong's version ended with the text "next year today, Occupy Central, July 1st 2014" backed by a soundtrack of protest chanting taken from this year's July 1 protest. Wong created a massive robot-shaped art piece for this year's protest, and the Occopy Central movement has been proposed for 2014 if the Leung Chun-ying government cannot provide the public with an acceptable universal suffrage plan.

"I found the content [of the Bruce Lee advert] an incredible match for Hong Kong and for any uprisings in China," Wong told the South China Morning Post. "So if they pose the dead master as a game changer, I might as well [pose] him for a greater cause, like what I did in my video."

The ad, which Lee's daughter Shannon Lee described as a mini film sponsored by the alcohol brand, features a highly realistic digital version of the late martial artist performing a monologue compiled from his philosophical remarks, including famous quotes such as "be water my friend" and "be a game changer".

It drew criticisms from fans who lamented the ad for its bad taste in linking their non-drinking idol with an alcohol product. They were also unhappy with a Putonghua-speaking Bruce Lee, who spoke Cantonese and English before he passed away nearly 40 years ago. In an interview with the Post, Lee's daughter maintained the ad was a mini film designed to promote her father's legacy in an interesting way and was not about selling booze. Johnnie Walker licensed Bruce Lee's image from the licensing company run by his daughter and family.

Wong's parody emerged right after the government revived consultation of the controversial Copyright Ordinance, which focuses on whether to exempt parody from civil and criminal liabilities. Last year the amendment of the ordinance drew criticisms from the public, who feared the law would tighten freedom of speech and creativity.

Wong said he supported the fight to protect freedom of speech from any potential control exerted by an amended Copyright Ordinance. In addition, as a long-time Bruce Lee fan, Wong found the idea of Bruce Lee promoting alcohol disgraceful.

"Bruce Lee is my idol. I read all his books, letters. He was a philosopher and a zen master who knew how to blend knowledge," the outspoken artist said, adding that he took the late superstar's quote "Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do," as his motto.

He said whether Bruce Lee really drank was not the main problem. "The point is, you use a dead man's spirit to endorse something that is quite low, the drinking of hard liquor. That is a disgrace to a kung fu man."

"Knowing Bruce Lee's mind since [my] teenage [years], if he were alive today I think he wouldn't want his image to be associated with any hard liquor. That is not wise."