Yellow Peril and Yellowface.

As I was reading Kent Ono’s novel, Asian Americans and the Media, I had a lot of mixed emotions; one of them being anger. The whole idea of “yellow peril” and “yellowface” is absolutely absurd to me. According to Ono, yellow peril is the fear that Asians will “take over, invade, or otherwise negatively Asianize the US nation” (Ono, 25) while yellowface is the practice of white actors portraying as Asians, presumably in a mocking way that is supposed to be entertaining. These two terms are born out of the racialized misconceptions that the dominant culture has against Asians/Asian Americans and does not in any way represent who we are or what we really stand for.

I’d like to start off with yellow peril. Not only is it offensive but it also sounds crazy! Ono stated that this began in the late 19th century, and I see that it still exists to this day as it is still being portrayed in Hollywood films. The 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen depicts a North Korean invasion on the White House, simply to reunify the Koreas. Going along with yellow peril, the movie created a lot of backlash not just towards Koreans, but all Asians in general. People began expressing disgust towards Asians/Asian Americans on social media. For example:

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To view the entire article, click here for the link [http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2013/04/olympus-has-fallen-anti-asian-slurs/63742/]. The idea of yellow peril makes Asians/Asian Americans come off as mysterious, evil, villainous and untrustworthy. I feel like if concepts such as this still persist, then racism will always exist.

Now onto yellowface. I don’t think I could watch any movie that has a non-Asian actor portraying an Asian character. It’s unpleasant to see, and I just don’t understand how it would be entertaining for some people. I get that it’s supposed to bring in some sort of comedic relief to the viewers but the mocking effect it has creates a stigma for Asians/Asian Americans. We are perceived to have slanted eyes, buck-teeth and puffy cheeks. Kent Ono stated that almost every Asian character in films from the 40s – 60s has this type of appearance, as if this is supposed to be the “authentic” look that ALL Asians have. There are so many different kinds of Asians: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Laotian, Hmong, etc., and we all have our own uniqueness in appearances. By distinguishing us as the same in the media, our uniqueness gets taken away and we are no longer considered who we really are to others. Here is a quote from Ono’s novel that really hit me hard. “Seeing oneself in a mocking pose repeatedly is a dehumanizing experience, one that tells people over and over they are objects, that they have no control over how their representation appears in public…” (Ono, 62). So I’ll just leave it at that.

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