Imagine a distant post-apocalyptic future in which a group of researchers discovers a stack of DVDs of 20th and 21st century Hollywood movies of Asian American actresses. After watching those movies, what might the researchers conclude about the characteristics of Asian American women in the movies? Certainly, they will view Asian American women as sexual and erotic objects of the society that white men can score with ease. Why do I assume they will think that way? The answer is a simple, yet controversial one: mostly, the media, as the history proves, portrays Asian American women either as erotic sex slaves of white men or as insidious personalities who lure their prey into a trap with their sex appeal. If we look into the history, we will find mainly two different types of Asian Women in the media: “Dragon Lady,” and “China Doll” – the two characteristics that altogether represent sexual and erotic nature of Asian women. Today, such stereotypical representations of Asian American women still exist in the movies even though the media claims that such stereotypes belong only to the past of American media. This paper will compare the typical roles of Lucy Liu, a modern Asian American actress, and Nancy Kwan, an Asian American actress who began her career in 1960s, in American films to show that representation of Asian American female characters as sexual and erotic objects has hardly changed over time.
History of Asian Women as sexually enticing objects:
Connie Chan, in her article, “Asian American women: The psychological responses to sexual exploitation and cultural stereotypes,” stresses that Western colonization of many Asian countries marks the beginning of cultural stereotype of Asian American women as “sexual and exotic objects” (as cited in sitemaker.umich.edu). The Americans Asian women their puppets, and saw them as easily available sources of sexual pleasure; moreover, they labeled those Asian women who immigrated to United States during that time as “one unit – China Mary” (sitemaker.umich.edu). As a result, the Asian females lost their sense of “individuality” and “diversity of what it means to be Chinese.” As Connie accents, the stereotypical representation of Asian women increased during “the US involvement with the Philippines wars, Japan and China in World War II, and more recently, the Korean and Vietnamese Wars” because the American soldiers saw Asian women “as prostitutes and sexual objects who provide rest and recuperation from the war zones” (as cited in sitemaker.umich.edu). As time passed and media came into existence, stereotypical names, such as “Dragon Lady” and “China Doll,” of Asian-American women began to represent the Asian American women as sexual and erotic objects in the media.
“Dragon Lady” is a “dangerous and seductive woman” whose nature is “belligerent” and “domineering” (yourdictionary.com). Historical roots of the “Dragon Lady” date back to the late 1800s when in the imperial China, the...