Friday, November 30, 2007

Commentary | "Slaying the Dragon" (1988)

Slaying the Dragon explores the notion that in American society the perception of Asian women has bled onto Asian-American women, allowing mythical stereotypes of Asian ancestry create illusions of who we are culturally. The women interviewed argue that being an Asian woman means that people have already formed an opinion about who you are and should be based on their subconscious expectations of what Asian women ought to be, brought about by the fantasy images put forth by Suzie Wong-like characters in film and media. They introduce films like Flower Drum Song to show Asian American women disparately characterized as either sexual beings or women of integrity, which in turn endorsed a certain kind of misogyny from white men who felt it their duty to either ravage or rescue.

Though I agree with this assertion, I felt that the issue of white male misogyny was only one part of several other difficulties involving both gender and culture. One of the main reasons it is so difficult to construct an Asian American female identity that goes against what is imposed by the mainstream is our own co-optation of those stereotypes when they benefit us. The pressure to “sell out” and play up the role of the “safe” Asian American woman who is coy and pleasing comes not only from the expectations of white men, but men in general and in many cases women as well. I am often reminded (by my mother no less) that an attractive woman is independent and strong, but also docile and complementary to a man in order to assuage his ego. So if Asian women deviate from the characters and cultural norms prescribed to them, they are outcast not only by men but by their culture as well. Doesn't this pressure to be everything to everyone, and have that identity be enough for oneself, seem incredibly isolating?

Company Credits (via
Production Company / Asian Women United
Distributors / Asian Women United, Center for Asian American Media

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