Meghan attacks Hollywood caricatures of Asian women in film

Published : 05 Oct 2022 09:26 PM

Meghan has attacked Hollywood caricatures of women from Asian cultures as she resumed her podcast series after its hiatus after the death of the Queen.

The Duchess of Sussex discussed their depiction in films such as Austin Powers and Kill Bill, as well as her own experience of Korean culture in the US, with her guests: the journalist Lisa Ling and the comedian Margaret Cho, according to a report The Guardian.

 “The Dragon Lady, the east Asian temptress whose mysterious foreign allure is scripted as both tantalising and deadly; this has seeped into a lot of our entertainment,” she said.

“But this toxic stereotyping of women of Asian descent, it doesn’t just end once the credits roll.” She said many American-made films were guilty of presenting caricatures of women of Asian descent as over-sexualised or aggressive.

Ling told Meghan that, when she was a broadcaster at Channel One, she was named hot reporter in the Rolling Stone’s Hot List, but faced racist abuse in the aftermath. “Someone at my place of work cut out that article, drew slanted eyes over the eyes and wrote ‘Yeah, right’ and then put it back in my mailbox,” she said.

“It was like every kernel of excitement that I possessed just withered away. It was so devastating that someone that I would see every day in my place of work, where we’re supposed to feel comfortable, just harboured those feelings about me and had the nerve to make it racial.”

Lucy Liu, who played the role of O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill, has previously addressed claims the character was an example of the “Dragon Lady” trope, which she defined as an Asian woman who is “cunning and deceitful … [who] uses her sexuality as a powerful tool of manipulation, but often is emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity”.

Writing for the Washington Post, she said: “Kill Bill features three other female professional killers in addition to Ishii. Why not call Uma Thurman, Vivica A Fox or Daryl Hannah a dragon lady? I can only conclude that it’s because they are not Asian. I could have been wearing a tuxedo and a blond wig, but I still would have been labeled a dragon lady because of my ethnicity.

“If I can’t play certain roles because mainstream Americans still see me as other, and I don’t want to be cast only in ‘typically Asian’ roles because they reinforce stereotypes, I start to feel the walls of the metaphorical box we AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) women stand in.”

She referred to the experience of Anna May Wong; the Hollywood actor who she said lost roles to white actors in yellowface. And Liu said she believed her own mainstream success had helped “moved the needle”, but added: “It is circumscribed, and there is still much further to go.”

Discussing her own experience of Korean-American culture, Meghan said she and her mother, Doria Ragland, would visit the spa, known as the jjimjilbang, that focuses on relaxing, spending quality time with friends and family. She said she was not aware of the stigmas faced by women of Asian descent until many years later.

… we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially.

We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This means more people can be better informed, united, and inspired to take meaningful action.