Asian stereotypes from film and TV have been part of the Hollywood package since the silent film era. While other races have seen the same problems manifested on screen, years of outrage and outcry have begun to take their toll and the balance is slowly beginning to right itself. However, Asian stereotypes seem to be struggling to disappear from the public eye.
The term Yellow Peril is given to one of the earliest Asian stereotypes-the idea that Asian men are evil and want to destroy western civilization. Most famously shown in the Fu Manchu films, the Yellow Peril stereotype was a dramatic way to express the xenophobic notion that Asian immigrants were threatening the American way of life.
Charlie Chan, the famous Asian detective from the early film era, is sometimes argued as a positive stereotype thanks to his great intelligence and heroism. These arguments overlook the fact that the character, and many others based on the archetype, speaks in broken English made up of fortune cookie one-liners while staying subservient to the white people he works with.
The Dragon Lady stereotype is not just one of the earliest female Asian stereotypes, it is one of the earliest portrayals of Asian women in general. The Dragon Lady archetype was made famous by Anna May Wong, but the hyper-sexualized, deceitful, and cunning Dragon Lady has been a force in the media for so long that even this century's Asian actresses can't seem to get away from the role.
Lotus Blossom (China Doll)
While the Dragon Lady is the evil, hyper-sexualized Asian stereotype, the Lotus Blossom, better known as the China Doll thanks to the film of the same name, is the good, hyper-sexualized Asian stereotype. The Lotus Blossom is considered one of the most demeaning characterizations of Asian females as it reinforces the idea that Asian women are subdued and subservient toys meant to be played with and tossed aside by white men.
A more modern stereotype, the mainstream media has taken it upon itself to add another "good prejudice" by alluding to the fact that Asian-Americans are always good at mathematics and science. This can be seen in films like "Mean Girls," as well as television shows like "Dexter" and the teen comedy "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody," where the nerdy Asian girl even takes A.P. lunch.
Perhaps the most offensive of stereotypes, many films add an Asian character as comedy relief, relying on the idea that broken English and goofy mannerisms are common to anyone born in Asia. One of the most famous was Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." More recently, the character of Long Duk Dong, a name designed for laughs and not authenticity, perpetuated this stereotype by being accompanied by a gong every time he entered a scene, acting completely bewildered by eating utensils and having absolutely no idea how basic etiquette works. This affable idiot created a new generation of Asian stereotypes that many people still can't let go of.