Kung Fu And “The American Hero”

david carradine kung fu

I’ve been watching the original series of Kung Fu with David Carradine. I wish there was a show like this on the major networks right now. I think HBO’s The Leftovers is the closest thing to an existential exploration on television at the moment, but season 2 just ended.


What I like about Kung Fu is the presentation of the ideas/concepts in the show. The tv series is less about Martial Arts and more about the teachings of eastern philosophies. The words “Kung Fu” (roughly translated) mean “achievement of man”  I have been very interested in learning more about Kung Fu concepts. I have even tried calling some places to study, but haven’t found a good place yet. Most martial arts teachers seem to want to craft their own study, which is totally understandable, but not really what I’m looking for.


The main character Caine, is the opposite of the typical American hero. Not only is he peaceful, but he is also not another “white savior” character, used in so many American stories in film/tv. see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_savior_narrative_in_film


Caine serves as the medium for lessons in life in every episode. Caine, or through his experiences, conveys the philosophy behind Kung Fu to the audience. In nearly every episode, he struggles and rejects American concepts/customs and the other characters in the show usually end up agreeing with Caine and acknowledging the lesson he passes on.


I think there should be more shows that challenge American concepts, customs, and culture. I think there should be more shows that challenge cultures in general too. I’ve been thinking a lot about technology, disruption, and the effect this has on culture and the individual. As a side note, another great thing about the show is the music, which is done by Jim Helms. If you are familiar with The Matrix, you’ll recognize some of the sounds.