Dr. Suocai Su
The “Yellow Face” in Hollywood
What comes in your mind when you think of an Asian American? The high possibility of the answers from a non-Asian Americans will fall into at least one of these characteristics: skinny small unattractive people with dark figures and slanted eyes, very nerdy, a Math expert and the inability to speak well English. Have you ever wondered how or when did you automatically stereotype this group of people? It’s called the power of media and specifically, how Hollywood portrays Asian American image in this country. Since the media is a strong tool to promote the variety picture of the Americans, it, however, privileges the White race instead. I’ve been noticing all of the significant characters in Hollywood movies that receive greater social status, be the last one standing that have the power or be considered as attractive has all happened to be White males. I think the stereotype of Asian American from Hollywood is totally fallacious, twisted, and old-fashion. For a most developed country in the world like America, this “White-standard” need to change to open more opportunities for Asian Americans to promote and stand up for their own race and pride.
The image of Asian American has taken part in Hollywood movies in the early 1900s. It has not always been accurately represented the Asian group because Asian characters were portrayed by white actors. They usually change the look of the real “white” actors by make up in order to approximate East Asian facial characteristics, such as Mary Pickford as Cho-Cho-San in Madame Butterfly(1915), Richard Barthelmess as Cheng Huan in Broken Blossom(1919) and so on. According to Michelle I, the writer of the article Yellowface: A Story in Picture, states, “Caucasian actors stole their roles by having their eyes taped back to make them slanted … real Asians were cast as pidgin-English speaking houseboys and laundresses …when they appeared at all.” That being said, Hollywood rather has a white actor that is cover up as an Asian to take the main role than casting a real Asian actor. Hence, these portrayals are considered as racism in the United States, as Michelle writes, “It’s no secret that Hollywood simply did not (or could not) feature non-Caucasian actors in anything but stereotypical roles during the Golden Age(1990s)… Asian-Americans fared the worst.” If we take a look at the Hollywood movies history, we will see all of the main American heroes or more specific, superheroes, the most desirable and important role to represent a certain culture and country, are Caucasian, “Christian Bale is Batman. Andrew Garfield is the new Spider-Man. Now it has been announced that Henry Cavill is the new Superman. What do these three men have in common?... they are all white.” an online article The Race of Superheroes says, “Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman are three most popular comic book characters in the United States; and they are basically American cultural icons. But the current actors portraying them on the world’s most popular stage are all British.” There is just no place for other minorities such as Asian, Black and Hispanic to play a part of popular America superheroes. Not even that, once Hollywood allows themselves to decide what race should be played in the original story, “…a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the practice of casting white actors to play Asians and Asian-American characters has a long history in Hollywood” Stephanie Siek from CNN writes, “Asian culture is enormously popular and acceptable, but the people are not. The people are inconveniently the wrong race, and so whitewashing is a result.” One of the recent Hollywood movie that represent this issue is Dragonball: Evolution(2009), the movie is a adaption of the famous Japanese comic, Dragonballand Goku is supposed to be a Japanese superhero. I grew up with this comic book and...
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