Asian Representation in Media: The Art of Yellowface and Cultural Appropriation in the name of “Feminism”

theintrovertedfeminist:

There has been a specific issue that has particularly angered and annoyed me. That issue is asian representation in media particularly with the use of yellowface and cultural appropriation in Hollywood/Celebrity Culture. Also the role of Hollywood not casting/hiring asian directors, actors, and actresses. I could talk about Ironfist and Matt Damon in The Great Wall which uses the white saviour narrative and asian people as background characters but I am going to focus on white woman and there “white feminism”.

1. Lets start off recently with the photoshoot Vogue did with Karlie Kloss. In this photoshoot, Karlie Kloss, a white woman, is portraying a geisha with the background being Japan. This is not only a case of yellowface but also an instance for the Western audience of Vogue to consume an orientalist fantasy. Karlie Kloss, has apologized but it means nothing from a person who also wore a Native-American headdress at Victoria Secret fashion show and most likely will not face any consequences for her actions.
2. Scarlett Johansson portraying Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell is another instance of yellowface and a white actor taking a role from an Asian person. There has been a lot of controversy with this movie among asian fans. I haven’t watched the trailer because not going to support this trash movie but from what I read online the whole entire background of the movie is set in Japan. The story/setting is Japanese with scenes of japanese characters death. One argument is but “Motoko is a cyborg, cyborgs don’t have a race”. To shut down that argument in the trailer Motoko’s mom is a Japanese woman and in the manga there are clear visual distinctions between caucasian and asian women. Also there was the whole controversy of CGI people with asian features.
3. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. There has been controversy this movie with the casting and with the whole Tilda Swinton vs. Margaret Cho emails. First off, two asian characters Wong and the Ancient One in comics were incredibly racist depictions of asian people. The writers and directors changed Wong to not be just a sidekick and manservant to Doctor Strange but to be a strong character by himself, arguably. With that information, they did not even try to do the same with the Ancient One but instead cast a white woman. With the whole Tilda Swinton and Margaret Cho emails it was a classic case of a white woman wanting a person of colour to ease their white guilt and get approval from person of colour to forgive them of their mistakes. Tilda Swinton also tried to play the victim with the whole “it’s hard for a 55-year old, Scottish woman to get roles”. Well, it is hard for asian people to get roles period. Not only that the whole Doctor Strange movie reeked of orientalism.
4. Lastly, the Mulan movie from Disney. Another movie that had a lot of controversy when the initial script had the whole white saviour narrative written on it but then Disney reassured us that it would star asian characters. Mulan, recently got a director, Niki Caro, a white woman. There are so many asian directors that could’ve been given a chance but no they chose a white woman.
There are asian directors that are also women. I solved your problem Disney.

In regards, to Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton, and Mulan this has been framed as a step towards “feminism” or framed as in the name of “feminism”. This isn’t an “asian vs. woman issue” you can have woman who are also from asian descent. WOW. This is literally a prime example of white feminism. Then there is Karlie Kloss who issued the apology with all I want to do is empower women and girls like that is such BS. You only want to empower white women. I am sick and tired of seeing white people take our roles and projects that are aimed for us. All of these examples, the use asian culture and asian people as the background just shows how disposable and unimportant we are and our stories are. It also shows the blatant white supremacy and capitalism interwoven in society/Hollywood. It shows how the “white gaze” works to favour white, Western audiences. There are 48 countries in Asia. We are not monolithic people. All I want and a lot of asians want is proper, media representation of Asian people.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.