To start I find the most difficult thing about Asian Americans’ portrayal in the media to be the glaring differences between male and female portrayals. While both male and female Asian Americans get casted as the “others” to the audience-accepted white lead roles, the way they are shown is interesting. Asian men are portrayed as weak, nonromantic characters with whom no American woman would ever think of as “dreamy” like they might another actor and if not, they are shown as the dastardly Chinese business man whose greed is despicable! On the contrary, Asian women in the media are overly sexualized and objectified in the way that their difference in appearance to the majority in America somehow makes them “exotic” and thus more likely to be sensual or pampering?
The logic is besides me but the films Slanted Screen and Slaying the Dragon showed the common portrayals of Asian women as being so serviceable, whether it was bathing their man, walking on his back, feeding him, et cetera. To notice that both Asian men and women are being portrayed in ridiculous yet different manners brings about the question as to why men are not desexualized and women are overly sexualized.
It’s my opinion that the beginnings of Hollywood, like many industries in America, was dominated by white males that would not let change happen quickly, especially when it comes to race! It only makes sense that in this fashion the movie and television industry, run by white males, would see Asian males in the media as a threat to their already domineering position. So in turn, they decide to make Asian men appear feminine to help themselves maintain this position. The sexualization of Asian women as the exotic other (Dragon Lady/Lotus Blossom) is predictable when white males are allowed to freely portray ideas however they want. This obvious objectification of women makes me sad, especially thinking about my Filipino-American mom.
I guess the key here is productive perversity as Shimizu suggests. While the situation is far from perfect now, it is arguably better than it was (no more white women with taped eyes). One can only hope that as time passes, more competent Asians will take the places of these powerful white male Hollywood directors, producers, and writers to finally do what the former were unable to do: portray Asian Americans honestly and justly.