ASIAN STEREOTYPING IN FILM
Language of Film
December 8, 2011
It is not often that we see an Asian person as the main character of a major Hollywood production. It’s upsetting that it even seems to be a surprise when they score the role of a supporting actor or actress. People of Asian descent are not only discriminated against in movies, but also by the film industry itself. Throughout a substantial number of films, Asian men and women are consistently stereotyped in a demeaning fashion. Whenever Asian men are casted in a film, they are almost always portrayed as a gang member, or villain. Also, they are not famous for their “sexual escapades.” More often than not, Asian men are depicted as having absolutely no sex life. However, Asian women are usually portrayed as hypersexual beings who are positive romantic partners, specifically for white men. It is not often that a viewer finds a positive reinforcement of an Asian character in a film. This type of racial stereotyping can always, in some form or another, be viewed as negative.
The film, Sixteen Candles could perhaps have one of the most upsetting stereotypes around. Gette Watanabe plays a character that is said to be “all asian stereotypes rolled into one.” (Macadam, 2008). One common misconception of Asians is that they all have a ridiculous, degrading name. The young, naïve, English-butchering foreign exchange student played by Watanabe was named “Long Duk Dong.” His popular catch phrase, “What’s a-happenin’, hot stuff?” and drunken antics made him a popular character among many viewers; however, not everyone was pleased with the way this character was depicted. Long Duk Dong’s geeky image and broken English angered many people of the Asian-American community. (Hansen, 2008). Not to mention, the overly “horny” character was introduced by the sound of a gong every time he appeared throughout the film. (Park, 2010). The sound of gongs are commonly associated with Asians, which is a stereotype in itself, but is it really necessary to “bang the gong” every time an Asian character appears? The film constantly tries to evoke humor through Long Duk Dong’s extreme and mistaken interpretation of the Asian race.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is yet another major production that stereotyped Asian men. Mickey Rooney, playing Mr. Yunioshi, was armed with a litany of snappy comebacks, and insults while delivering a thick, irregular Asian accent and muddled grammar. (Arteaga, 2008). This was perhaps the movie’s biggest downfall. Mr. Yunioshi’s sole purpose was to provide cheap comic relief to an audience that, at the time, thought that these stereotypical ideas were entertaining. The character himself is a “double blow” to the Asian community. Not only is the character full of racial stereotypes, but he is also played by a Caucasian man in heavy makeup. Mickey Rooney is clearly painted yellow to depict an Asain character, and uses terrible English. For example, at one instance Mr. Yunioshi says “You disturb-uh me,” as opposed to “You disturb me.” This is done in order to constantly establish the common Asain stereotype, and also the lack of English knowledge. Almost fifty years later, and films are still “poking fun” at Asian men. The Hangover also has Dr. Chow, (as if his name isn’t enough of a stereotype), the mobster who is once again, short, comical, and has horrible English. Despite the terrible stereotypes, The Hangover I and II did substantially well at the box office.
The degrading stereotypes viewed throughout time are not only portrayed through the Asian men, but also the women. Asian women have various stereotypes that they live up to in a film. Females are normally viewed as hyper-sexualized individuals who are instantly submissive, specifically to Caucasian men. The World of Suzie Wong helps set the standard for duplicitous, hypersexual, childlike women who are in severe need of “rescuing.” Once...