The image of Asian American Women in film has undergone many changes from the 1920s to today. With stereotypes such as "dragon lady" and "china doll" and the practice of yellow-face, Asian American actresses had plenty of obstacles in the world of film. Actresses such as Anna May Wong encountered all these things in her career throughout the 1920s and 30s. The 1940s saw a drop in roles for Asian American actresses because of the American political climate. Although acting opportunities did pick up in the 1950s and 60s, war only further contributed to the demeaning roles available. It was not until the 1970s that roles for Asian American actresses changed and even expanded into the realm of television. This change coincides with changes in academia and literature. With the creation of Asian American Studies departments and works like Woman Warrior, the image of Asian Americans was clearly changing in American society. This evolution is evident in popular films such as The Joy Luck Club.
[...] Lucy Liu's role in this movie in a way signifies Asian Americans being considered American within film or better yet society. Asian American actresses should not be limited to play roles exclusive to their heritage; they should also have the opportunity to portray American women, which is also a part of their identity. Even though it would be ideal, everything in film has not been a progression completely toward authenticity. Despite the strides that have been made, stereotypes persist. Although there are a few actresses such as Lucy Liu, there are also still nameless “dragon ladies” appearing in film. [...]
[...] 1940s, 50s and 60s The 1940s however, saw a change in the film industry for Asian and Asian American roles. Politics sentiments in America were affecting portrayals in a major way. The bombing of Pearl Harbor changed American society drastically. Negative sentiments against Japanese and Japanese Americans rose almost immediately. This resulted in the repeal of Chinese Exclusion Laws. With Japan now an enemy, this gave way to America looking to China as a new ally. How this affected Chinese and Japanese Americans was tremendous. [...]
[...] It is impossible to watch films in the 1920s and 30s with Asian or Asian American female characters without encountering some variation of the “china doll” stereotypes. It is also important to remember that these were movie makers' images of Asian and Asian American women. Seeing an Asian or Asian American character did not automatically mean seeing a person of that background. This use of yellowface, white actors playing Asian/American roles, had a great impact within the world of film. [...]
[...] Tomoyuki sums up the message of the film as follows: “China is an awful, terrible place from where lucky women escape to the wonderful U.S.A.” (Tomoyuki). This summation surely arises from the creation of the Joy Luck club and the camaraderie of the women. The four friends have collective celebrations with their families that include food, games, stories, etc. Yet from the problems of the mothers and their daughters in the United States, it is clear that America is purely wonderful. [...]
[...] Changes in Film Careers, Academia and Literature The 1970s and 80s saw an expansion in the careers of Asian and Asian American women. Actresses like Nobu McCarthy and Nancy Kwan continued to do film and began to get roles in television. Some of the roles had more “Americanized” names, like Monica, Lisa or Anne (Movie Database). Strangely enough these names actually resembled the names of the actresses playing them than the traditional Asian names did. With the name changes, also came the change in character. [...]
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