Images of Chinese American women on Screen: Femme Fatale and Chinese Swordswoman as the Oriental drug for Western viewers

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Neha Tripathi


Representation in the U.S. film industry since the early twentieth century has invariably presented Asian women as sexualized and vampish. The figure of the Asian American femme fatale signifies a particular deathly seduction. She attracts with her soft, unthreatening and servile femininity while concealing her hard, dangerous, and domineering nature. Early images, particularly the performances of Anna May Wong, continue to this day to haunt the production and reception of Asian women on screens, such as in the star-making roles of Nancy Kwan in the 1960s and Lucy Liu in the present. If Asian/ American women’s subjection is fundamentally dependent on sex, creating the parameters for Asian women’s presences in popular film and in history, racialized sexuality on screen must then be sites where bondage of representation is itself re-imagined, recast and criticized at the very moment of performance… This gender imbalance not only sustains the construction of Asian American women as more desirable candidates to be assimilated when paired with White men but also reinforces the “ownership” of White American males over the bodies and spirits of Asian/American women by negating the potential physical and sexual threat imposed by Asian/American men…


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Neha Tripathi. “Images of Chinese American Women on Screen: Femme Fatale and Chinese Swordswoman As the Oriental Drug for Western Viewers”. The Creative Launcher, vol. 6, no. 2, June 2021, pp. 61-69, doi:10.53032/TCL.2021.6.2.10.


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