This week in class, we watched the film “Slaying The Dragon”, which confronted the Asian-American stereotypes that women face in Hollywood.
I really enjoyed this film, as it brought attention to the history of Asian-American actresses in film, and brought their hardships to the attention of the viewer.
As the movie industry began it’s boom, first with silent films and, then spoken word films, Asian-American actresses were few and far between. Those who were in the first films, all mostly represented the same type of character: submissive, doting, and “exotic” women that appealed to the white male. Hollywood developed a delusion about Asian women, and that stuck for years to come. This character became known as the “Suzie Wong”, a prostitute in the movie The World of Suzie Wong. As war films rose in popularity, especially following the end of the Vietnam War, the characters still stayed the same. Asian women were depicted as spoils of war, and were there mainly to please the soldiers. At no point was an Asian actress represented in these roles unless they played these specific characters or had the “look”.
This “look” even carried over to television, where women were slowly making waves in the news broadcasting world. As more Asian women began hosting the news, a familiar trait became evident: they all had the same style and look. This developed into a new stereotype, the “Asian reporter”. Networks would only hire anchors that had a similar look to popular Asian-American anchor Connie Chung. Some networks even went as far as to change the hair and makeup of its anchors so they appealed to this “look”.
Unfortunately, it was impossible for many Asian-American actresses to break free from this stereotype because the industries kept promoting it. Specifically, the white male was mainly attracted to this “look” and stereotype that Asian-American women portrayed in movies and on TV. Luckily, this has begun to change. Asian-American actresses are beginning to get more vibrant roles, and their characters now how more substance and personality than ever before. I hope this change continues, and Asian-American women can receive more and more roles outside of the stereotypes they normally play. There is still a long ways to go, but there has definitely been steps in the right direction.