Asian American: An Analysis of Negative Stereotypical Characters in Popular Media

Table of Content
  1. Mahdzan, Farah, and Norlinda Ziegler. ‘Asian American: An Analysis of Negative Stereotypical Characters in Popular Media.’ 2002. March 19, 2007. <> (13 pgs.) Based on evidence of popular movies, the paper discusses negative stereotyping of Asian American male and female characters. As the paper argues, typical Asian American males in popular media are often portrayed as evil, lacking intelligence, undesirable partners, or belonging to the ‘Yellow Uncle Tom’ type (i.e. passive, old and speak broken English). Typical Asian American females are portrayed as white male’s partner, ‘China Doll’ (i.e. sexually active, exotic, overly feminine and eager to please), or ‘Dragon Lady’ (i.e. seductive, desirable but untrustworthy). The paper also applies a feminist perspective in the analysis and supports all findings with excellent evidence.
  2. Jenkins, Sacha, Wilson, Elliott, Chairman, Jefferson Mao, Alvarez, Gabriel, and Brent Rollins. Ego Trip’s Big Book of Racism. New York: Regan Books, 2002. (304 pgs.) The book discusses how stereotypes run through different spheres of American life, and popular media is no exception. While Asian Americans are not the central theme, sufficient attention is paid to this group as well. The book supports the majority of theses put forward in Mahdzan and Ziegler’s paper: Asian American mean are always ‘some type of ninjas’ whereas females are ‘hot and dangerous’ Dragon Ladies. The book analyses Asian Americans’ portrayal in the films, TV series and other forms of popular media from the early 20th century.
  3. Feng, Peter X. Screening Asian Americans. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002. (308 pgs.) This is probably one of the most comprehensive resources on the representation of Asian Americans in American cinematography. While it discusses both positive and negative examples, the number of negative stereotypes is certainly larger. The book cites evidence from many films, such as The Wedding Banquet, Chan is Missing, Surname Viet Given Name Nam, Mississippi Masala and others.
  4. Zia, Helen. Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. (368 pgs.) The book investigates the experiences of Asians immigrants in the American society. One of the difficulties they are facing is negative stereotyping by media and popular culture. The book gives an extensive account of Asian American fighting the negative perception imposed by Hollywood movies, TV series and even news media.
  5. Media Action Network for Asian Americans. ‘A memo from MANAA to Hollywood: Asian Stereotypes.’ March 19, 2007. <> (online) Media Action Network for Asian Americans is an organization that advocates for fair, accurate, sensitive, and balanced depictions of persons of Asian Americans in popular media. The memo enumerates all the negative stereotypes about Asian Americans imposed by Hollywood: the portrayal of Asian Americans as foreigners who cannot be assimilated, as inherently predatory immigrants, or as persons practicing clichéd professions such as Korean grocers or Indian cab drivers. Male sexuality is depicted as negative or non-existent while females (if not China Dolls or Dragon Ladies) are women who are immediately attracted to white men.
  6. Kashiwabara, Amy. ‘Vanishing Son: The Appearance, Disappearance, and Assimilation of the Asian-American Man in American Mainstream Media.’ 1996. March 19, 2007. <> (online) The article focuses on the representation of male Asian American characters in popular media. It explores the way Asian American men have been depicted in American culture since 1900s as well as reasons for it. As the article points out, Asian American males are usually presented as coolies (i.e. economically inferior, not be trustworthy though outwardly submissive, speaking with an accent etc.), villains or men with ambiguous sexuality. The article also discusses Asian American female characters with regard to their influence on male characters. This resource is very useful since it compares and contrasts the depiction of Asian Americans in almost thirty movies, TV series and cartoons.
  7. Prasso, Sheridan. The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, & Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient. New York: PublicAffairs, 2005. (437 pgs.) The book, written by an experienced journalist who has traveled all around Asia, explores popular misconception about Asian women in the minds of Westerners. While the book isn’t devoted to Asian Americans, it’s relevant for the ample reason that the perceptions of them are significantly influenced by the images of Asians. The book debunks the ‘Asian Mystique’ myth and shows how diverse Asian women are in reality.
  8. Chik, Anita. ‘Films show Asian, Asian American women as stereotypes, panel says.’ February 4, 1997. March 19, 2007. <> (online) This article is devoted to the issue f representation of Asian and Asian American females in mainstream American movies. They are usually depicted as beautiful, sexually available, exotic, and loyal but submissive. While the article acknowledges this image isn’t always true, it also cites dome objective social and historical reasons for such stereotyping.
  9. Major, Wade. ‘Hollywood’s Asian Strategy: The Asian Millennium could catch Hollywood flat-footed.’ Transpacific, 68 (1997), 24-31. (8 pgs.) The article thoroughly examines the relations of Asian American actors and directors with Hollywood. While usually Asian Americans are depicted as ‘villainous tyrants, comfort women, coolies and other assorted stereotypes’, there has been some progress made recently. The reason for change, as the article argues, is associated with the rise of independent Asian cinema.
  10. Jo, Moon H., and Daniel D. Mast. ‘Changing images of Asian Americans.’ International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 6(3), 1993, 417-441. (24 pgs.) The article presents the results of a very detailed study of the history of American encounters with Asians and resulting perceptions and beliefs. While the authors acknowledge there was little progress in reversing negative stereotypes during previous decades, certain progress has been done recently.
  11. Pham, Minh-Ha T. ‘The Asian invasion in Hollywood.’ Journal of Popular Film and Television, 32(3), Fall 2004, pp. 121-131. (10 pgs.) While the article focuses on the representation of Asian and Asian American bodies in two films, namely the Rush Hour and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it also makes abundant references to preceding films dealing with the subjects of multiculturalism through portraying person of Asian origin.
  12. Ghymn, Esther Mikyung. (Ed). Asian American Studies: Identity, Images, Issues Past and Present. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. (265 pgs.) While the book is generally helpful for understanding the cultural framework within which Asian Americans interact with mainstream American culture, the chapter entitled ‘Asians in Film and Other Media’ investigates specifically the issue of their representation in popular cinema and other media.
  13. Hamamoto, Darrell Y. Monitored Peril: Asian Americans and the Politics of TV Representation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. (311 pgs). This resource is especially helpful for the ample reason it attempts to look into the root causes of distorted or negative representation of Asian Americans. While other sources prefer descriptive or comparative approach, this book presents a bigger picture of TV representation as linked to social power.
  14. Hoppenstand, Gary. ‘Yellow Devil Doctors and Opium Dens: The Yellow Peril Stereotype in Mass Media Entertainment.’ Popular Culture: An Introductory Text/ Ed. Jack Nachbar and Kevin Lause. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State UP, 1992, pp. 277-91. (14 pgs.) This chapter of a comprehensive study of media bias in popular culture focuses on the construction of negative identity of Asian Americans as intrinsically linked with organized crime and too often with drug trafficking. Male characters are central to the study, yet the lives of Asian and Asian American women in such surroundings are also discussed.
  15. Dombrink, J., and J.H.L Song. ‘Good Guys’ and Bad Guys’: Media, Asian Criminals and the Framing of a Criminal Event.’ Amerasia, 22(3), pp. 25-46. (21 pgs.) This research article is devoted to the representation of Asians and Asian Americans in the news media in connection with high-profile crimes. The article argues that the coverage of many criminal cases is twisted as to present minorities, Asian in the first instance, as a source of potential danger and instability.

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