Created by Brad Falchuk and Byron Wu, Netflix’s ‘The Brothers Sun’ is an exciting action dramedy that follows the story of the Sun family. It all begins with an attack on Charles Sun, who is the son of the head of the Jade Dragons, one of the biggest Triad gangs in Taiwan. Soon after the attack on him, his father is targeted, and this leads Charles to Los Angeles to look for his mother and his estranged brother, both of whom have been in hiding from their enemies. Over the season, chaos unfolds as the gangs are pitted against each other, and the Sun family tries to look out for one another. Considering that the Triads are real criminal organizations, the audience might wonder if the Jade Dragons are based on a real criminal gang. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Suns and the Jade Dragons are Fictional But Inspired by Real Gangs
When it comes to Jade Dragons Triads, there are two things that come to mind. The first is the Jade Dragon Triad in the Marvel Universe. It is a criminal organization that operates in Madripoor under Turtle Head Wu. The second Jade Dragon Triad is of ‘Arrested Development,’ the gang of three Asian women in the Orange County Correctional Facility L.I.T.E. who cross paths with Lucille Bluth during her short stint in prison. None of these Jade Dragon Triads have a connection to the Jade Dragons in ‘The Brothers Sun’ (until a shared universe between them emerges).
In the Netflix series, Jade Dragons are one of the biggest gangs in the Taiwanese Triad. In real life, the Bamboo Unions are alleged to hold that position. At the beginning of ‘The Brothers Sun,’ the attack on Big Sun throws the whole Triad into chaos. Whatever the differences between them, the Triad bosses show that they stand beside each other in the face of a common enemy. A similar thing was exhibited during the funeral of Bamboo Union’s former leader, Chen Chi-li, with several Triad heads, including that of the Four Seas Triad and the Celestial Way (two other main criminal organizations) in attendance, along with the members of the yakuza as well as the heads of the crime families of other countries like Hong Kong and Malaysia.
With what’s available to public knowledge about the Triads and the way they work, the creators of ‘The Brothers Sun’ have tried to incorporate those elements into the story. However, they have not based the Jade Dragons or the Sun Family on any particular crime family in Taiwan. In fact, the inspiration for the family and their story came to Byron Wu from an incident related to the yakuza. Wu revealed that he was inspired by the attack on Japanese director Juzo Itami by the yakuza after he created a film where he portrayed the members of the yakuza as somewhat idiotic and bullish, who are brought to their knees by an attorney, played by Itami’s wife.
The movie’s name is ‘Minbo,’ and it was a critical and commercial success. However, six days after the movie opened, Itami was attacked by three yakuza members who slashed his face. The director was taken to the hospital, but he survived. This incident took place in 1992. In 1997, Itami died after falling from the roof of his office building. It was ruled a suicide due to a note found on a word processor. However, the circumstances surrounding his death seemed too shady to his family. Later, a former member of the yakuza revealed that they’d killed Itami, presumably because his next film also focused on the yakuza.
The incident led Wu to realize the fragile ego and the insecurity of the yakuza members who couldn’t handle a satire about them and who thought they were threatened by a film and its director. This led him to think about Asian American male masculinity, and that’s what led him to come up with the story about the Sun family. The influence of the incident shows in Wu’s series as we watch the Triad members and even the men in the Sun family giving their everything just because their egos cannot handle certain things. This further leads to more bloodshed and chaos, which certainly rings true for real-life criminal organizations.