Meghan Markle came back to her Podcast “Archetypes” on Spotify for the first time since the death of Queen Elizabeth II and dedicated the new episode to Hollywood’s enduring Asian stereotype of the “Dragon Lady”. Markle called out two movies, “Austin Powers” and “Kill Bill,” for being harmful in how they portrayed Asian women as overly sexualized and/or overly aggressive.
“Films like ‘Austin Powers’ and ‘Kill Bill’ presented these Asian female characters as often overly sexualized or aggressive,” Markle said. “And it’s not just these two examples, there are so many others. … It seeped into a lot of our entertainment. But this toxic stereotype of Asian women doesn’t stop once the credits roll.
Markle’s guest on the podcast was Nancy Wang Yuen, who previously tackled the “Dragon Lady” stereotype in her book “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism.” Yeun recounted being called out by a man who used the “me so excited” offensive line as heard in “Full Metal Jacket.”
“I myself was proposed at an airport in Atlanta by a stranger who said, ‘Me, I’m so horny,’ just shouted it at me,” Yeun said. “I knew why because I looked around her and thought and saw that I was the only Asian woman in this. I knew he was talking to me, even though I don’t even know not if he [ever] seen “Full Metal Jacket”.
When Markle quoted “Austin Powers” and “Kill Bill,” she was addressing controversial figures like hyper-sexualized twins Fook Yu and Fook Mi, and violent Yakuza leader O-Ren Ishii. The latter character was played in “Kill Bill” by Lucy Liu, who has long dismissed the claim that O-Ren is a harmful Asian stereotype.
In 2021, Teen Vogue published an essay titled “Hollywood has played a role in the hypersexualization of Asian women” in which writer India Roby defined the Dragon Lady as “cunning and deceitful” and a character who “uses her sexuality as a powerful tool of manipulation, but is often emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity”. Roby cited Liu’s O-Ren as a contemporary example. Liu pushed back the claim in his own Washington Post Editorialwhere she claimed the accusation made no sense as “Kill Bill” writer-director Quentin Tarantino created other like-minded, like-minded female characters for the film.
“‘Kill Bill’ features three other female professional killers besides Ishii. Why not call Uma Thurman, Vivica A. Fox, or Daryl Hannah a female dragon? Liu asked.
“I can only conclude that it is because they are not Asian,” Liu wrote. “I could have worn a tuxedo and a blonde wig, but I would still have been called a dragon woman because of my ethnicity. If I can’t play certain roles because traditional Americans still see me as Other, and that I don’t want to be cast only in “typically Asian” roles because they reinforce stereotypes, I’m starting to feel the walls of the metaphorical box that we AAPI women step into.