The Brothers Sun: A True Story or Comic Book Adaptation?

Netflix’s action series ‘The Brothers Sun’ revolves around the Sun family, a significant part of the Taiwanese triad, the Jade Dragons. The show masterfully weaves an intriguing narrative in which the Jade Dragons get attacked by a mysterious rebel group. Since Asian organized crime syndicates or “triads” are real entities, the viewers must be wondering whether the saga of the Suns and the Jade Dragons is rooted in reality. Even though parallels can be drawn between several real-life crime tales and the events in the action drama, Byron Wu and Brad Falchuk’s creation is not based on a true story. Nor is it an adaptation of a comic book!

The Inspiration Behind The Brothers Sun

First of all, Taiwan-based crime syndicates that share several similarities with the Jade Dragons do exist. The United Bamboo, the Four Seas Gang, and the Heavenly Way Alliance are regarded as the three main crime gangs in Taiwan. The United Bamboo, like the Jade Dragons, were involved in activities such as extortion, debt-collection, gambling, protection, and prostitution, as per Trends in Organized Crime. The Heavenly Alliance mainly dealt with protection for sex establishments, gambling, and lottery, while the Four Seas Gang was involved in bid-rigging, credit card fraud, and price fixing. However, the Sun family and the Jade Dragons can’t be seen as a direct representation of any of these groups.

Byron Wu, one of the creators of the show, started conceiving the central characters of the narrative after learning about an attack sustained by renowned Japanese director and ‘Tampopo’ fame Juzo Itami in May 1992. The filmmaker was attacked by, as per the police’s belief at the time, the Yakuza. Itami’s ‘Minbo’ is a satire that ridicules Japanese organized crime syndicates. “It was funny how these gangsters were so insecure about their jobs that they felt the need to threaten a comedy director,” Wu told EW. “Asian American male masculinity and insecurity was a thing I was thinking about at the time,” he added about the inception of the series.

The thought led Wu to the creation of Bruce Sun, one of the main characters of the series, and his friend TK. “The rest of the show grew out of that,” the co-creator said in the same EW interview.

The Universality of the Family Tale

Although the series is an engrossing action drama that centers on a Taiwanese triad, Wu and Brad Falchuk focused significantly on the family drama part to make it more universal and touching. When harm comes their way, the Suns band together as a family irrespective of their personal wishes and aspirations. As far as Falchuk is concerned, it is the core of his series. “[The series explores] what it means to be a son, what it means to be a brother, and also what it means to try and keep a family together,” he told Netflix’s Tudum.

Despite the Suns’ identity as a Taiwanese crime family, Falchuk believes that their tale is globally relatable. “We do an extreme version of it because they [the Suns] are a crime family and there are people shooting at them and trying to kill them, but the conflicts they’re having, the problems they’re having internally, the emotional problems are very, very universal,” he added. The burden Charles Sun accepts as the eldest son in the family, Eileen “Mama” Sun’s sacrifice as a mother to protect Bruce, and the youngest one’s efforts to safeguard his brother despite having ideological differences with the latter make their story relatable.

The Immigrant Experience

‘The Brothers Sun’ is all about the survival of an Asian immigrant family in Los Angeles, California. The pain Mama Sun dealt with while departing from Taiwan to protect Bruce is something experienced by several mothers who left Asia for the United States for their loved ones. “The show is a love letter to the Asian American experience. The themes of the show, which is the value of family and the mannerisms of respect, really bled into the culture of our workplace, as well,” Sam Song Li, who portrays Bruce, told UPI.

Michelle Yeoh believes that Mama Sun’s life journey is one thing “a lot of Asian immigrants, or any immigrant, can relate to.” “You had to leave your past behind for whatever reason and move to a new place, sometimes not knowing the language, not knowing anybody. That takes a lot of courage and determination. I’m happy I had the opportunity to show the lives of so many immigrant families that take that brave step — to show that it’s not easy,” Yeoh added in the same EW interview, joining Wu.

Read More: Where is The Brothers Sun Filmed?