The Asian American Student Organization (AASO) showed Deborah Gee’s documentary, Slaying the Dragon, Tuesday night of sixth week in the Connable Recital Hall. The film explores the stereotypical portrayals of Asian American women in Hollywood since the silent era and how those perceptions affect Asian American women in their daily lives. Through the images of the “Dragon Lady,” Suzy Wong, geisha girls, the perfect housewife, and female newscasters, the basic typecast of Asian American women as untrustworthy and exotic or domestic and subservient remains the same—the mother/whore dichotomy. These perceptions underscore how Asians, and by extension, Asian Americans, are seen as foreign or other in American society.
The film’s critique continues through the early 1990’s but could be extended to more current movies like Kill Bill Volume 1, The Joy Luck Club, and Memoirs of a Geisha, which still use the roles of “Dragon Ladies,” geishas, and subservient housewives, although some of the issues have changed to ones of ethnicity, general representation in the media, and authenticity. Notions of otherness are still pervasive in contemporary society as well, with the “Asian Sensation” dating scene and exotic foods serving as consumer examples of “eating the other.” However, films like Yellow, Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle, and Better Luck Tomorrow challenge these stereotypes and offer alternative perspectives of Asian Americans in the media. We will be expanding the discussion further to interracial dating and biracial issues on Tuesday of ninth week with two Kip Fulbeck films, Banana Split and Some Questions for 28 Kisses.
Our goal as an organization is to engage the campus community in contemporary Asian American issues and raise awareness of stereotypes, racism, and Asian American history. Stereotypes undermine human individuality and flatten heterogeneity within the Asian American community. The perceptions of Asian American women highlighted in Slaying the Dragon survive in subtle ways through everyday media and humor. Education can counteract stereotypical prejudice and raise awareness of the issues.
- Kelsay Myers '07-'09 and Danielle Trierweiler '07-'08
Note: This article was printed in the campus newspaper, The Index, in the Winter of 2007.