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Portrayals of Asians in Film and Television


Apocalypse Now
Colonel Kurtz, deep in the heart of Vietnam, has a personal army of subservient, primitive savages. 1979

The Aristocats
Why is a Siamese cat presented as being Chinese? The pidgin Chinese accent is voiced by Paul Winchell. 1970

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Mickey Rooney has a notorious cameo appearance as the cartoonish Mr. Yunioshi, Holly Golightly's upstairs neighbor. 1961.

The Deer Hunter
Released in 1978, the film was criticized for an inaccurate and stereotypical depiction of the Vietcong.

Dr. No
In the 1961 debut of James Bond films, the title villain was supposed to be Chinese-German, but the role was given to a Canadian.

Flower Drum Song
A Rodgers and Hammerstein musical made in 1961 was full of stereotypes, but it was the first Hollywood film with Asian-American actors playing the romantic leads.

Oddjob was the Korean(?) chauffeur, bodyguard, and chief henchman of the title character, and, with his deadly steel-brimmed bowler hat, perhaps the most parodied Bond villain. 1964

The Green Berets
The stereotypes range from South Vietnamese subservient or corrupt officials to Viet Cong as vicious but inept soldiers (so therefore should and can be defeated). 1968

The Manchurian Candidate
North Koreans are portrayed asbrainwashers, but the only one with a speaking role is played by Italian-American Henry Silva. 1962

Murder by Death
A parody of Hollywood's yellowface practice, Peter Sellers portrays an elaborately dressed and pidgin-English-speaking detective inspired by Charlie Chan inspired (complete with a number one son played by a Japanese actor). 1976

Seven Faces of Dr Lao
An Anglo-American actor still gets the lead role, and the makeup crew won an Oscar for their efforts in transformation. 1963

Star Wars (The original trilogy)
Jedi knights, perhaps, were inspired by Samurai warriors, but there are no Asians in any of these films, with the possible exception of a pilot with one line of dialog. 1976-1981

Tora! Tora! Tora!
This 1970 film was controversial when it opened for being too well balanced in representing both sides. 1970

You Only Live Twice
The first Asian Bond girl shows up in 1967, and there are two. In a James Bond collection with four other movies.

Jennifer Richards

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Jenny Richards