Stereotypes of Asian female

Michelle Kim

Popular culture


How Asian female pictures in the media


As the world getting more globalized as well as in the characters of the media, lots of shows and movies contains different race of people. Currently according to United Census Bureau, in the United States percentage of Asian is 5.3% (Chan,1988). Not many of media creator will see Asian/Asian female that a lot. Since Asian alone do not take big percentage of the population in the United States, the producers/creators of the media will create a character based on what their stereotypes of each characters that they are creating. Media is the one that affects thoughts of people and made contents from people’s thought. In most media no matter rather the contents are past or present, Commonly Asian female are seen as exotic/mysterious, submissive/passive, quiet, naïve, sexual/cunning, easy to approach, and put all Asian as Japanese or Chinese or mix of different cultures as one. Lack of different characters about Asian female will make people to have limited thoughts of Asian female. And Asian female are the one of those characters with lots of stereotypes. You can find stereotypical Asian female characters in Hollywood’s movies and shows. I’ll be analyzing three of the characters, Chiyo from the Memoirs of a Geisha, Sonmi-451 from Cloud Atlas, and Alex Munday from Charlie’s Angel.

Before I go through three characters that I’ve analyzed I want to look in to the historical roots of when Asian female started being stereotyped, they were described as “commodities to be possessed” since Western colonization of lots of Asian countries. They were not seen by each individual but a whole as “Asian” especially Chinese immigrant were labeled as “China Mary” (Butler, 2011).

The stereotypes of Asian female being exotic got more fixed after the period of wars, such as World War II, Philippines, Korean, Vietnamese wars. During this time Asian female were thought of as prostitutes or maidens of soldiers of the West, “who provide rest and recuperation from the war zones”. No matter what nationality of the women are, many number of the women during that time had placed under requisition or got tricked by people from prostitution saying that they’ll support their own families by working at some industrial place.

Connecting to this historical aspect, a movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” shows well in this context. This movie takes place in 1930-40’s of Japan when before and after World War II broke out and how life and meaning of a Geisha changed through that time. A Geisha is a traditional Japanese female entertainer who are skilled at classical music, Japanese art, dancing, and etc. to entertain mostly male customers. This main character Chiyo, a main character in this movie, is the most an aggregate of what Asian female seen in the most Hollywood movies and shows among the three characters that I have analyzed. Chiyo was sold by her family because of severe poverty with her sister. She got accepted to this one Geisha house because she has mysterious, exotic blue eyes although almost every Asian has dark brown eyes. In the movie she is seen as quiet, submissive, naïve, and pure, which makes her more exotic and curious.

One of the things that stand out most about Chiyo is, quiet. Men are tend to be get attractive to women who are quiet. Because “being shy adds an air of mystery to women”. I feel like most men tend to lead the role also group of men answered yes to if they prefer quiet shy women over loud and obnoxious women (Emily C., 2015).

Also in the movie she loves this one man who met when she was young and because of him she became one of the Geisha and showing fidelity to one man makes her submissive. Also one part that was unpleasant to me was that the house of Geisha put her virginity on auction and sell that at the highest price to become a “true” Geisha also Geishas could not get to choose their lover of their own. Putting an auction of one’s virginity and could not get to have their own love shows sexploitation of the Asian female.

My second artifacts that I have analyzed is Sonmi-451 from a movie “the Cloud Atlas”.

One part of this movie takes place in Neo Seoul in 2144, Sonmi-451 is a human clone also called Fabricant in this movie and plays as Korean. This Fabricants are all Asian female and they are robot waitresses and they wear a metal collar that controls them. All Fabricants have skinny body, two strands of colored hair, which refers them are robots, and wear doll-looking costume. In some scene in the movie they get harassed by male and they cannot refuse it or they will die from an owner who can control that metal collar. This shows that Asian female as male’s sexual toys or one’s possession. I found an article about a phenomenon called “yellow fever fetish”, a slang term for preference or interest of Asian female by non-Asian male, usually White male.

I have some experiences like a stranger messages me through a Facebook to meet him and when I walk down the street someone approaches me and ask to go out. Also this character is a robot or a clone, which is considered as not human that makes others especially men to think even more as an object. Because Asian female are seen as objects people will treat them less human. In this movie there are two or three sex scene only with Asian female. This makes me feel like Asian female are more sexually free and easier to approach than other race female because they are seen as objects. From my experiences as I live in United States I get asked by many people where I am from by asked like “Are you a Chinese or a Japanese?”. Like most the Hollywood movies make mistakes of lumping all Asian culture as one. In one part of the movie takes place in Seoul, a capital city of South Korea, with features of Japanese’s lifestyle.

Lucy Liu plays Alex Munday in “Charlie’s angel” and this character falls in to stereotype of a “dragon lady” (Butler, 2011). Dragon lady is a type of Asian female character who are strong (unlike other two characters), cunning, and mysterious.

In this scene Lucy Liu wear a tight leather clothing which makes her sexy figure while other two characters dress up like men, which make Lucy stands out more. This character is a worker of a mysterious detective. In this video clip when she walk through bunch of men, all of them looking at her body. Unlike two artifacts that I’ve analyzed she is pictured as strong women seems like positive aspect of them being stronger than men but this term is racist and sexist because they are depicted as an “evil women” and seductive.

As I look through the artifacts what interested me was they are seen as positive at some points. For example Chiyo’s life is miserable, she overcome hardship, which feels like she is strong and finally meet the man that she loved for her life. But she is seen as more delicate female and looks like she is relying on the men. Also Sonmi-451 is the one influences the world and become goddess but I think deificating her is what makes her more mysterious. Lastly Alex Munday is a strong women but seen as cunning seductive women. I think directors of those two movies made each artifact overlaps both positive and negative side of one’s personality, but they should have more knowledge of Asian female.





Works Cited

Butler, S. (2011, July 31). Tiger Lady’ Is a Racial Slur: How Wendi Deng Murdoch Fights the Stereotype of the Meek Asian Woman. Retrieved from Alternet:

Chan, C. (1988). Asian American women: The psychological responses to sexual exploitation and cultural stereotypes. The Politics of Race and Gender in Therapy. Ed. Lenora Fulani. Haworth, 



Emily C. (2015) Do men like quiet women? How to attract the man of your dreams. Retrieved from Yourlifeyourlove :






2 thoughts on “Stereotypes of Asian female

  1. Hey Michelle, I really like how you further developed your paper. Knowing the history behind the stereotype is super important to me, so I really like how you explain it in your paper. I think it is interesting how in your conclusion you mentioned there is positive and negative effects of the stereotypes, because these women are portrayed as strong, most people just focused on the negative effect of the stereotype. I agree, the people who created these characters should have a better understanding of the Asian female. I read memoirs of a Geisha, and I always found it odd that it was written by a white man. It seems like a Japanese woman would have more knowledge around that topic, because it is part of Japans history.

  2. Hi Michelle,
    Your essay was good. Your topic was obviously near and dear to your heart. It’s awful to hear about the fetishization you experience. It would suck to regularly have men coming up to you because of your race.
    I’d only seen Memoirs and Cloud Atlas, so I can’t comment on Charlie’s Angels. However, when you talk about the robot women being abused and mistreated, I have to wonder if there was another angle you didn’t explore. When I watched the movie, the whole idea was that the way they were treated was wrong. I took it as a commentary on the fetishization of asian women. I think the author of the book was on your side with that one.

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