Saturday, March 27, 2021

I Can't Think Of Any "Hypersexualized" Asians, But Sonny Chiba Had A Baaaad White Woman

teenvogue |  Last Tuesday, a suspect entered three different massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing 8 people. The next day, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long was charged with eight counts of murder. Most of the victims were Asian or Asian American women. Although the suspect’s motives are still under investigation, he claimed to have had a “sex addiction” that prompted the rampage, according to the New York Times. In a recent report by Stop AAPI Hate, there have been about 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country since March 2020, with women reporting hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.

It’s no coincidence that Asian women are the most vulnerable when it comes to these attacks. This historic wave of anti-Asian racism is frightening and tragic, but its connection to Asian representation, especially Asian women, in America is disturbing.

Let’s start with the fact that there’s clearly a lack of Asian representation in Hollywood. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 5.7 percent of people identify as Asian or Asian American. However, in 2016, they only made up 3.1 percent of film roles according to UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report. Because of this lack of representation, oftentimes portrayals of Asian women in Hollywood have been harmful.

The oversimplified depiction of Asian identity has a deep-rooted history of racism and violence. Often pop culture (films, musicals, TV, operas, etc) has portrayed Asian women as incompetent and fragile foreigners, exotic femme fatales, and subservient “mail-order” wives.

"Consider the heartbroken Cio-Cio San of Madame Butterfly (1904), a Japanese woman who commits suicide after she is abandoned by her white lover,” says Dr. Stephanie Young, an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. “Madame Butterfly epitomizes the Lotus Blossom (sometimes called the China Doll) trope — feminine, shy, fragile, subservient, and sexually submissive. We see the Lotus Blossom trope in Miss Saigon (1989) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). Another popular trope is the Dragon Lady who is cunning and deceitful. She uses her sexuality as a powerful tool of manipulation, but often is emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity. A contemporary example of the Dragon Lady is with the Japanese Yakuza leader O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu) in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).