Film is one of the most popular culture products that is consumed by everyone in the society. What makes a film great and successful are the different elements within it such as the character, storyline, visual and acting. One of the critical element that I think is important to the audience is the storyline and the diverse representation of characters. Rarely do you see Asian American, especially Asian American women, starred in the American mainstream movies or TV shows.
According to the Hollywood Diversity Report done by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Asian American only represents 4% of the roles in the Hollywood film industry, while white (81%) remain the predominant role. On top of that only female actresses are underrepresented compared to male actor on a ratio of 2 to 1 from 2011 to 2103. (Bunche, p.4) Since the early ‘90s Asian American women continue to be the minority in the film industry along with other ethnicities, their roles are downplayed to support the predominantly white protagonists. However, once Asian females do star in an American film they’re written with extreme and one-dimensional personality.Stereotypes of Asian female actress include aggressiveness, subservient, and are oversexualized from time to time. This characteristic can be seen in movies such as Rush Hour 2, The Man With an Iron Fist, and Codename the Cleaner.
Let’s first look at how sexualized and subservient Asian females are in this film. Here is a scene from Rush Hour 2 when Carter and Lee visited a Chinese massage parlor.
The women in this scene are dressed in very revealing clothing that exposes a lot of skin. The ladies are seated in 4 different rows acting very flirty and sensual in order to get picked up by the male characters. In this scene, the women are being portrayed as objects, their body and services are used in exchange for money. This representation of Asian females can promote a misogynistic view of women and can leave a negative stigma on the Asian culture. This stereotype is very common among American film and can be seen in most film that has Asian actresses.
Let’s now take a look at how Asian females are being viewed as aggressive and fierce. Here is an example in the movie The Man With an Iron Fist from the fighting scene at Madam Blossom’s brothel.
In this scene Madam Blossom (Lucy Liu) is being portrayed as a female fighter. The movie portrayed her as aggressive and fierce through the use of her martial prowess. Lucy Liu is also known mostly for her vicious and heroic role in Hollywood movies. The role that she portrayed in these movies can impact her personal life. During one of the interview Lucy mentioned, “It’s so much fun playing her [Ling], but I have this fear that people are going to run away from me in terror on the streets. They think I’m going to bite their heads off or something”. She also mentioned that “I never get asked out for a date, but I can’t blame them, they only know me from movies where I play a tough chick, men want a sweet girl” These stereotypical roles Asian women are casts in can bring in negative impression to their life outside of the screen. Some audience associate actor or actress personalities in the movie to their real personalities outside of the set due to the repetitive stereotypes that are being used.
Here is another clip of Lucy Liu being portrayed as violent and seductive at the same time.
What are some changes from the way Asian women are being portrayed from the past to the present day?
As time passed, Asian American started to star in more roles in both film and TV shows. Some stereotypes such as the one discussed above are being portrayed less but there are still negative stereotypes that are being portrayed in the modern day. This could be seen in the modern TV show Fresh Off the Boat written by Eddie Huang and directed by Nahnatchka Khan. This show is about a Taiwanese immigrant family who is trying to assimilate into the American culture.
In this TV show, Jessica (Constance Wu), who is a wife and a stayed at home mom to her 3 kids, is portrayed as the typical “crazy Asian mom” type. Asian women are usually being portrayed as a subordinate to their husband and her kids. Their personalities usually associate with strictness and high demand on their child performance. This characteristic can be seen played out by Jessica’s role in the following clips.
And who knew that A++ exists?
Although some of these stereotypes do apply to some Asian moms, it doesn’t mean that it applies to the rest. By putting these stereotypes on the mom it can leave negative impressions that the society have towards them. It can make the mom feel self-conscious about their behavior and parenting styles for their own child. The way these stereotypes are being portrayed through the American media alienate Asian mothers and causing negative judgment toward the Asian culture.
In conclusion, the uncreative use of Asian actress in Hollywood movies is a complete disregard to both female integrity and a racial insult to an entire culture that can bring much more than the one-word stereotypes casts on them. The lazy writing that uses women as props rather than an intelligent living breathing being that does affect their setting willfully is holding Hollywood back from untapped creative material and fencing off their brand to a wider international appeal. By limiting Asian women to subservient roles used only as a convenient prop for the movie, Hollywood film deprives their female audience a chance to see women in action, women making a difference, and women whose own struggle both good and bad they can relate to. Not only does this affect young impressionable girls, the male audience seeing women in such weak positions are taught a misconception that can lead to misogynistic behaviors. If Hollywood diversify Asian women’s role in a story so that they can interact and carry the story forward, they will offer a much more interesting story, one that will appeal to an audience that is waiting and willing to pay, to see a character on the silver screen that they may look up to, that they can call their hero and an inspiration to their own endeavors growing up.
The most significant lesson I took out of this class is that writing can be enjoyable at times. In the past, I’ve been struggling with writing a lot which is why I dislike writing since then. After the first week of the blog discussion, I’ve come to enjoy writing more because of the casual writing style and its interactiveness. Another reason why I come to like this writing style is because it is not very restricted to what you can include in the writing compare to a research paper. One other experience I liked about this class is the positive online community. This is my first time taking an online class and it has been a great experience so far seeing that people are willing to share their personal experience and learn to respect other opinions. I’m glad that I chose this class and I am looking forward to taking more online classes in the future.
Bunche. (2015). 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report: Flipping the Script. Retrieved from http://www.bunchecenter.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2-25-15.pdf
Chan, R. (n.d). Asian American Portrayals in Mainstream Media [Web log post]. Retrieved from The Hyphen Project: https://hyphenproject.wordpress.com/laying-the-groundwork/asian-american-portrayals-in-mainstream-media/
Frutkin, A. J. (2000, December 24). The Faces In the Glass Are Rarely Theirs. The New York Time. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
IMDb. (n.d.). Fresh off the Boat. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3551096/
Media Action Network for Asian American. (n.d). Retrieved May 12, 2016, from http://www.ntac.hawaii.edu/AAPIcourse/downloads/pdf/readings/AsianAmericaStereotypes.pdf