The 9 Most Offensive Asian Characters Ever In Film

Wednesday, April 11 by Joseph Gibson

fu manchu mustache.jpg

Hollywood has had an embarrassing legacy of racist stereotypes in film. One of the most common is Asian stereotypes–be it from "yellow peril" villains like Fu Manchu or buffoons like I.Y. Yuniyoshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Here are nine of the most offensive Asian characters in movie history.

Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu comes close to being the definition of offensive Asian characters, both in movies and in the pulp novels by Sax Rohmer that gave birth to the character. In all of these depictions, Manchu is a soulless, inhuman monster who wants to eradicate the white race in order to make way for a new global rule by the Chinese. Manchu embodies many hateful stereotypes of a "villainous" China, as typified in the 30s horror-thriller "The Mask of Fu Manchu" starring Boris Karloff.


moreso) than the titular hero even though he was supposed to be the sidekick. In an earlier depiction of The Green Hornet, though, an adventure serial from the 1940s, the character is portrayed a bit more regrettably. Keye Luke delivers his lines with the unfortunate pronunciation of replacing the L's with R's, which in today's world is more than a little bit offensive.

Charlie Chan

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	But at least Kato was played by an actual Asian actor – during the <span data-scayt_word=30s and 40s, there was a big trend of Asian detective films featuring Asian characters solving mysteries due to the success of the "Charlie Chan" movies. But it wasn't until the 1970s that Chan, a Chinese detective from Hawaii, was played by an Asian actor (Keye Luke, coincidentally) in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series.

Mr. Moto

Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto

While Charlie Chan isn't really that offensive apart from being played exclusively by white actors, Moto embodies more than one Japanese stereotype that would definitely offend most audiences today. For one, Japanese detective Moto is a sneaky and duplicitous character who often infiltrates the underworld in disguise. And for two, and again unlike Chan, he will often engage in cold-blooded murder in order to get his man.

Mr. Wong

Mr. Wong, Detective.jpg

Another of the big Asian detectives, Wong is played by Boris Karloff (again) with the kind of dark ambiguousness that he's famous for. But why couldn't an actual Asian actor be cast in these roles? In today's society, that discrepancy alone is enough to make many of these characters offensive.

I.Y. Yuniyoshi 


Capra's romantic drama "The Bitter Tea of General Yen" is played again by a non-Asian actor in "yellowface" makeup. This is almost offensive enough to overshadow the other stereotypical aspects of his character, such as his violent and non-sentimental nature.

Mr. Wong (II) 

Bela Lugosi, is a villain in the mold of Fu Manchu. And no attempt was made by anyone to disguise Lugosi's thick Hungarian accent, despite the fact that he was supposed to be playing a Chinese character.


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