Although most Western movie watchers will instantly recognise the above picture as being “Pai Mei” from the movie “Kill Bill”; the whitehaired Mei was actually a good guy in this movie and is a throwback to a character seen littered throughout kung fu movies, but always as the villain.
But the question is — why?
“Pai Mei” is a character closely derived from a real person called Bak Mei. I won’t go into too much detail about Bak Mei as Wikipedia already discusses the relationship between the Pai Mei chracter and Bak Mei better than I ever could.
The character of Pai Mei is seen in different guises, but the most famous movies are “Executioners From Shaolin” and “Fist of the White Lotus”; although Pai Mei is not the only white haired supervillain. Carter Wong was excellent as “Chi Kung” in the cult movie “Born Invincible” (see Born Invincible clip on youtube)
Indeed, I remember a load of Shaw Brothers and other kung fu movie where there would always be a white haired supervillain stroking his beard whilst taunting his enemy with words such as “Your kung fu is weak, old man”, etc.
The white hair represents a cut above everything else. Essentially, the more white hair, the harder you are… but, as in the movie “Born Invincible” conceeds; a white haired supervillian isn’t totally invunerable — he always has one weak spot, and no… it’s not the balls!