Rise of the Yellow Peril

Last week, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) came out with a statement saying they had a plan of testing nuclear missiles soon. They then continued by stating these nuclear tests would be targeted towards the United States.  They did not imply that we were the targets; they made it clear that the United States would be the target of these tests.  Since then, politicians such as Hillary Clinton and other government leaders from several United Nations’ countries have tried to convince the North Korean government to stop the nuclear test.

With these threats coming from North Korea, I fear a possible rise of disdain or negativity towards North Koreans similar to that of the “Yellow Peril”. In class we learned that when the Chinese were coming to immigrate into the country, there was fear among the citizens of America, of being overpowered, jobs being taken and the culture being changed.  This fear was further propagated by media discourse such that the Chinese people were perceived as enemies. Examples of media tools used to influence people included cartoons, as displayed below, and movies. The federal government also took a relatively strong action by enacting the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, suspending migration of Chinese workers to the United States further encouraging the media and the citizens’ animosity. Similarly, during World War II, after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, newspaper cartoons portrayed the Japanese as hostile people. This led to the mass support of placing individuals with Japanese ancestry in internment camps due to the fear that was created once again by the media, requiring the government take action.

In regards to the North Koreans, even prior to the current nuclear threat, there had been some examples of the “Yellow Peril” stigma. One example is in the movie Red Dawn in which North Korea is depicted as a major threat to America. In class, we read some of the tweets that demonstrated the fear of North Koreans as the movie portrayed the rage of people and how they wanted to rise up and actually kill North Koreans. In other past films, there was reference to the former leader of North Korea, Kim Jong II, like in the movie Team America: World Police and a James Bond movie. If these threats continue, we may not only get more media expressions in cartoons and movies but they may send a stronger message once again encouraging the citizens of the United States to negatively act towards the North Koreans and deem them a threat like we have seen in the past with the Chinese and the Japanese.
Image from: http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/yellow_promise_yellow_peril/image/2002_3727.jpg

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References
“Asian Americans and the Media” – Kent A. Ono and Vincent N. Pham
Class 5 In-Class Lecture and discussion
http://www.voanews.com/content/clinton-hopes-north-korea-can-be-dissuaded-from-nuclear-test/1593364.html For news article referencing the events so far from North Korea

Jet Li

The earliest experience I have had with Asian American in the media was watching Jet Li. His movies were always amazing to watch and captivated me with the beautiful choreography and the skills that Jet Li possesses. The movie that made me fall in love with Jet Li was “Once Upon In China”. It was about this Chinaman who was a doctor and follows a code to protect the innocent and the weak. He would fight against religious fanatics who were corrupt and fought the changes that were happening in china in the 1930s. These cults were fighting for China’s isolation of foreigners and their ideas. At first, Jet Li was neutral between the foreigner’s way and the cult’s way. When the cults started to attack the innocent and weak foreigners as well as his lover, he started to fight back and brought them down with their leaders. Many Chinese movies in the 90’s did not have a good story background and leaned more towards martial arts choreography to make up for that void in story. After seeing this movie, I saw Jet Li in a light to where I believed his character and feel his presence throughout. This movie represented Jet Li to be an honorable warrior who is humble as well as intelligent. He protects the weak that cannot defend for themselves and rids the evil that torments these innocent lives. The representations of Asian Americans in media are still cursed I feel because many Asian movies that have reached the United States now are always martial arts movie with little to no story. Even when there is a great story such as “Hero” which Jet Li played in, it portrayed Asian Americans as martial artists with vengeance in their blood to rid the tyranny and evil. These new movies also involve a lot of CGI for martial arts effect which cannot be done by a human. They also use strings in fights to exaggerate many fight scenes to captivate more audience. I feel that these effects take away the beauty of the martial arts that has been done through choreography and made it seem like just about any average person could play a role in these movies and do these movies. With this, I just feel that the films feel empty and deprived of any real story rather than a generic background with just anybody being a martial artist with these new effects.
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Exploration of Ken Jeong’s character in “Community”

I have decided not to use the first representation that I experienced of an Asian American person in the media, but rather a more recent representation. I have decided to do this because the particular character that I will be referring to is very different in comparison to his fellow Asian American counterparts in other shows. His character is a very bold, outgoing, and confident man who plays on his Asian heritage many times during an episode for comedic effect.

This character is Ken Jeong’s portrayal of Señor Chang in the show “Community”. He is introduced in the second episode of the first season, and absolutely steals the spotlight for the few minutes of airtime he gets. This is the same man that played Leslie Chao in The Hangover. Señor Chang is introduced in a two minute monologue that has some very interesting quotes when analyzed in regard with yellow peril, controlling images, and orientalism.

He has several quotes during this monologue that take stereotypes and yellow peril head on. Ken Jeong’s character asks these rhetorical questions to himself when he is addressing the class: “Señor Chang, why do you teach Spanish? They say it just like that, why do you teach Spanish? Why not math? Why not photography? Why not martial arts? I mean surely, it must be in my nature to instruct you in something that is ancient and secret, like building a wall that you can see from outer space. I’ll tell you why I teach Spanish; it is none of your business!”. He later goes on to say “I don’t want to have any conversations about what a mysterious and inscrutable man I am (Insert stereotypical evil Asian laugh)”.

His character shows that many people have asked him before why he isn’t just your typical Asian teacher that should be teaching math or martial arts. This is a byproduct of the controlling image that media has given the public about Asian Americans, one that all Asian Americans are great at math and martial arts among other things. Mysterious and Inscrutable play into the yellow peril dimension, as does the Asian-sounding evil laugh that Señor Chang does after the above quotes. The orientalism aspect is touched on with the great wall reference, as it is a mysterious and exotic achievement the Chinese have pulled off.

Overall, I like what the writers of “Community” have done with Ken Jeong’s character. They did not just take the easy way out and made him a typecast Asian character. His character is even more fleshed out in later episodes and shows a new dynamic of how different an Asian American can be from the controlling image of a typical Asian American.

Jackie Chan Adventures

As a child growing up in the suburbs, I wasn’t aware of social/racial prejudices when I was growing up. I wasn’t brought up to treat someone differently because of the way they looked ever. It wasn’t until my early teen-hood that I even noticed that I had a very racially mixed group of friends. However, the first time I really noticed Asian related media was when I started watching the cartoon Jackie Chan Adventures as a child.

Jackie Chan Adventures was a legit, and I mean legit show when I was growing up. I didn’t take into account that the show was focused around Asian characters all I was interested in was the action, and boy was there action. The cartoon takes place in San Francisco, California, originally thinking that it was in a made-up land. Although I wasn’t really paying attention to all the themes I do remember the show presented a very traditional Asian feel. From the music, to the characters, to the scenery, I can now see the various differences between Jackie Chan Adventures and any other show.

Getting back to the show, Jackie Chan (protagonist) is an archaeologist  living with his uncle and his niece Jade.  While you would think that Jackie would be discriminated against, he is actually recruited by a secret government agency called Section 13. Once recruited, he is given instruction to be on the search for talismans which give super-human power to whomever holds them. The antagonists, the Black Hand criminal organization is also after the talismans on their quest for power. The main plot of the cartoon series is the back and forth battles of finding the talismans, along with battling the Black Hands for possession of them.

After being in this class, it has become very easy to remember back on some of the stereotypes that the cartoon series supports. Some of them include the fact that everyone in the cartoon has mastered some form of martial art with even Jackie Chan’s young nice Jade being very proficient dismantling  intimidating foes throughout the story. While the whole story is fictitious, I feel it did provide different sorts of stereotypes toward Asian/Asian-American people.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist

Growing up in an area that was predominately White, and only being surrounded by five percent Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, it was hard to recognize what Asian and Asian American stereotypes actually were. Even though I was young and did not have much exposer to the Asian and Asian American race and culture, I can vividly remember the first time I noticed Asian and Asian American stereotypes being portrayed in the media. The first time was in 2002 when the movie Kung Pow: Enter the Fist came out in theaters.

This movie was about a child named “The Chosen One” who had left abandoned after his parents are killed by an unknown man. “The Chosen One” was born with natural martial arts skills and was sent out by an Evil council to find and kill this unknown killer. “The Chosen One” then consults Master Tang to train him before he goes on to defeat this unknown killer. Master Tang introduced him to two other students Wimp Lo and Ling. Wimp Lo became “The Chosen Ones” rival and “The Chosen One” ultimately falls in love with Ling. “The Chosen One” finally encountered Master Pain, who was the man who killed his parents. Master Pain ultimately ended up beating “The Chosen One” and then changed his name to Betty. After Master Pain beats “The Chosen One”, he went back to train even harder. During his training “The Chosen One” gets knocked up and encounters a women with one breast named Whoa, she told him not to fight Betty, but he finally woke up and seeked out Betty one last time. “The Chosen One” still very unprepared gets beat once again by Betty, he sets out to train again until he was ready. Once he was fully prepared he sets out to find Betty and finds his power has expanded through out the entire city. “The Chosen One” proceeds to fight anyone who was close to Betty, while practicing on wooden figures that are replicas to Betty. “The Chosen One” seeked out Betty one last time and finds out that the Evil council are aliens from France who have been empowering Betty to kill “The Chosen One”. “The Chosen One’s” tounge “Toungey” ended up destroying the aliens and “The Chosen One” by defeating Betty by ripping the pyramids off his chest. 

This movie even though meant to be comical has an absurd plot, exemplifies all Asian and Asian American stereotype and was extremely racist in my opinion. One of the first things I noticed in this movie was the use of explicit yellow face. The main character in this movie “The Chosen One” is played by Steve Oedekerk, who was an American actor portraying an Asian character. While he played “The Chosen One” he also did the voice overs for many of the characters in the film, giving them whinny, soft voices clearly mimicked how Asians talk. There was also evidence of Yellow Peril in this film as well. The main enemy Master Pain or Betty was feared by all and takes over the village. This clearly showed the political fear of Chinese portrayed early on in history by Ghangis Khan. The last stereotypes I noticed through out this movie pertained to the Asian females. The two stereotypes of Asian females are the lotus blossom/madame butterfly and the dragon lady. In this film Ling the student who “The Chosen One” falls in love with is the quite female, who offers support to “The Chosen One” that portrayed the lotus blossom and Whoa the women with one breast who “The Chosen One” tongue fights with portrays the hyper sexualized Dragon Lady. 

Overall even though comedic, this movie clearly insults the Asian and Asian American culture and race. It puts forth many stereotypes such as all Asians being born with martial arts skills, unable to speak well and the inability to speak well and convey ideas and thoughts. 

Rush Hour

The first time that I can remember seeing an Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander in the media was in the movie Rush Hour. It was in 1998 and I was seven years old, little did I know the movie had a different stereotypes throughout the film. Rush Hour is an action oriented movie that takes place in Los Angeles. Jackie Chan the lead actor in the film is flown in from China to try an save an old friends daughter who had been recently kidnapped by the triads (Asian gang). Throughout the movie there are several action-packed scenes including ones that are filled with plenty of martial arts scenes. The movie contains three different Asian or Asian American actors that play somewhat vital roles in the movie. Throughout the entire movie several stereotypes are expressed in the film plenty of which we have learned so far throughout the course. Yellow peril and the way that people tend to portray Asian/Asian Americans in movies and the media. 

The main character Inspector Lee is portrayed at first as a soft spoken Asian man who has very broken English and seems to be confused about his surroundings when he first enters America from China. As the movie progresses and the action scenes start to pile up you see Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) turn into martial arts masters and was quickly turning from this soft spoken Asian man into this martial arts hero whom no one could beat. I believe this is how many Asian male actors are portrayed in a lot of different action movies. They are always extremely good at martial arts and when they are not fighting they are quiet and seem not to speak or be that good at fluently speaking English. Also in many other movies you don’t usually see these Asian actors use any kind of weapon except weapons that could be identified as ancient Chinese weapons. These different sorts of examples I believe show how many people still portray Asian/Asian Americans in film today. 

Another thing that I now notice that I did not notice when I was younger is the amount of Yellow Peril that is incorporated in the movie. I remember when I was younger that I was very afraid of the bad guys in the movie. The triads were portrayed as a very vicious and powerful gang that were very capable of taking over. They were able to put fear in a lot of different people’s minds because of how vicious that they were in the movie. They would blow up building killing police officers and civilians. They would torture people in the movie. This I believe can set in the fear that yellow peril once instilled into peoples minds. The fear over Asian/Asian Americans taking over due to the power that they may have.

Looking back now I am very shocked to see the amount of stereotype that happens in what was once my favorite movie. It is sort of different to look back and see the different things that we have been discussing in the course thus far in movies that we as children had no clue. The different references that they make to yellow peril and different things is sort of ridiculous now that I am able to sit down and watch the movie again. 

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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

The first time I can remember seeing an Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander in the Media was on the hit 90’s kids action show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, an adaptation from the Japanese Super Sentai franchise. The show follows the lives of 5 California teenagers chosen by Zordon to defend the Earth from the evil alien sorceress Rita Repulsa. The teens are given the name the Power Rangers and use their new found super powers to defeat monsters and other creatures Rita Repulsa sends to attack the Earth, continually foiling her plans to take over the planet. The show actually contains two characters played by Asian or Asian American Actresses, Power Ranger Trini Kwan and villain Rita Repulsa. Although they use Asian actresses to portray both a hero and a villain the series portrays common Asian/Asian American Stereotypes, implicit and explicit yellowface, the idea of Asians as yellow peril and Asian women as the dragon lady.

Yellow Ranger, Trini Kwan is described as soft spoken and being one of the more intellectual members of the group, both characteristics coincide with the common stereotypes that Asians are quiet and very smart. Another characteristic that Trini is known for is her strong martial arts ability, reinforcing the idea that all Asians can do and are good at Kung fu. One of the more obvious racial stereotypes is that Trini Kwan, the only Asian or Asian American super hero is named the Yellow Ranger.  Highlighting the association of Asians and yellow skin.

The character Trini Kwan is played by Vietnamese Actress Thuy Trang, however Kwan is Chinese surname. This is an example of implicit yellowface where an Asian or Asian American plays an Asian ethnicity other than their own. It also feeds into the idea that all Asians look alike and are interchangeable. The character Rita Repulsa gives an example of explicit yellowface as even though the character is played by Japanese actress Machiko Soga her English voice is actually performed by Caucasian Actress Barbara Goodson, as the scenes with Machiko are actually from the Japanese series.

After deconstructing the character Rita Repulsa I was surprised to see how her character portrays both the idea of Asians as the Yellow Peril and of Asian women as the dragon lady. Rita Repulsa is described as an alien who desires to take over the planet. Her being an alien emphasize the idea that Asians are forever foreigner and her quest for universal domination plays on the idea that the U.S. should fear Asians invading and trying to take over the country. Rita Repulsa is controlling, power hungry, and uses the men in her life to get what she wants, and although she is not hyper sexualized, her character still plays out the dragon lady image.

It was interesting to look back at a show I loved so much as a child and see how it really portrayed Asians and Asian Americans. When I was a child I thought it was cool to see a super hero that was Asian like me on a television show however I now see how the Asian characters portrayed stereotypes and negative images of Asian and Asian Americans.

 

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