- Lucy Liu wrote an op-ed piece featured in The Washington Post on Thursday.
- Liu said her “Charlie’s Angels” character “normalized Asian identity for a mainstream audience.”
- She noted her “Kill Bill” character was described as a “dragon lady” and fell into stereotypes.
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Lucy Liu opened up about Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in Hollywood, discussing the impact of her previous roles and why it’s crucial to move away from harmful stereotypes.
In an op-ed published by The Washington Post, Liu said she feels fortunate to have “moved the needle” for AAPI actors on-screen, but “it’s not easy to shake off nearly 200 years of reductive images and condescension.”
Liu noted that the mainstream media has often confined Chinese women to stereotypical archetypes like “submissive lotus blossom” or “the aggressive dragon lady.”
One such role was Liu’s “Kill Bill: Volume One” character O-Ren Ishii, who was described as a “dragon lady” in a March Teen Vogue op-ed. According to that op-ed, a “dragon lady” refers to an Asian woman who “uses her sexuality as a powerful tool of manipulation, but often is emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity.”
As Liu noted, “Kill Bill: Volume One” featured three other female assassins, but none received the same label.
“‘Kill Bill’ features three other female professional killers in addition to Ishii. Why not call Uma Thurman, Vivica A. Fox or Daryl Hannah a dragon lady? I can only conclude that it’s because they are not Asian,” Liu wrote. “I could have been wearing a tuxedo and a blond wig, but I still would have been labeled a dragon lady because of my ethnicity.”
“As part of something so iconic, my character Alex Munday normalized Asian identity for a mainstream audience and made a piece of Americana a little more inclusive,” Liu wrote.
The “Elementary” star also urged others to cast aside stereotypes surrounding the AAPI community, adding they’re not only “constricting” but “deadly.”
In March, Robert Aaron Long was arrested after targeting three Asian-owned salons and killing eight people – six of them Asian women. Authorities said that Long indicated the violence was motivated by his sex addiction instead of racism. But experts told Insider’s Irene Jiang Haven and Orecchio-Egresitz that it’s “impossible” not to acknowledge how race played a role.
In the op-ed, Liu noted that Long “targeted venues staffed predominantly by Asian workers and said he wanted to eliminate a source of sexual temptation he felt he could not control. This warped justification both relies on and perpetuates tropes of Asian women as sexual objects.”
Liu said Americans need to have a sincere and candid discussion about how harmful stereotypes affect AAPI individuals daily.
“This doesn’t speak well for AAPIs’ chances to break through the filters of preconceived stereotypes, much less the possibility of overcoming the insidious and systemic racism we face daily,” Liu wrote. “How can we grow as a society unless we take a brutal and honest look at our collective history of discrimination in America?”