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Dragon ladies and China dolls: Images of Asian American women in American film

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Dragon lady, China doll and yellowface.
    1. The 1920s image of the 'oriental woman'.
    2. Other most common roles for Asian American actresses.
  3. The 1940s, 50s and 60s.
    1. Change in the film industry for Asian and Asian American roles.
    2. The demeaning roles of the 1950s and 60s.
  4. Changes in film careers, academia and literature.
    1. The creation of Asian American Studies as an academic discipline.
    2. New portrayals of Asian American women.
    3. Yuan Shu's book 'Cultural Politics and Chinese-American Female Subjectivity: Rethinking Kingston's Woman Warrior'.
  5. The joy luck club.
    1. Based on of the Amy Tan novel with the same title.
    2. Tanaka Tomoyuki's arguments and writings.
  6. Current images.

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. [...]


[...] Considering the images seen of Asian and Asian American females in film, The Joy Luck Club benefited the images of women far more than it negatively affected the images of men. Current Images As much as some people would like to believe that the dragon lady image is a thing of the past, it has been so prominent in film that it persists even today. In 2007's Rush Hour the third installment to the hit featuring Jackie Chan, there is a dragon lady. [...]

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