Skip to Main Content

Portrayals of Asians in Film and Television


Always Be My Maybe (2019) Detail. Accessed August 6, 2019 from:

Stereotypes, Tropes, and Miscastings
Stereotypes of Asian characters in films are as old as Hollywood itself, and they continue. This guide focuses on East Asians: Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Thai, Vietnamese, other Southeast Asians, and Americans with those ethnic backgrounds.

Often overt, sometimes covert, the tropes have taken several forms, but all are filled with exoticism and otherness. Some clichés contradict others. The inability to speak English without an accent or using pidgin doesn't get in the way of being highly intelligent in the form of mystically wise, criminally clever, or geeky. Women can be dragon ladies, China dolls or tiger moms. Men are too often either seen as emasculated or lecherous or both. Once most East Asians were seen in meek servant roles, but in modern films, martial artists predominate roles for both men and women. The stereotypes are usually further enhanced when white actors are selected for Asian roles, and the practice called yellowface remains controversial.

Jennifer Richards

Profile Photo
Jenny Richards