Samantha Bee: Hollywood Perpetuates Anti-Asian Racism


Comedienne Samantha Bee blamed Hollywood for anti-Asian sentiments in the United States, lambasting the industry for its history of racism toward Asians while calling for better representation.

Throughout Samantha Bee’s speech, she highlighted the many examples throughout Hollywood history in which Asians were typecast as seductive villains, prostitutes, or submissive servants. She also noted the many times that white actors (such as John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, and Mickey Rooney) were cast to play Asian characters. One particular story was that of Anna May Wong, who was denied the lead role in “The Good Earth” due to laws forbidding non-white actors playing opposite white actors.

“Instead, she was offered the stereotypical role of Lotus Flower, a villainous concubine, which she admirably turned down, something a lot of actors wouldn’t have had the integrity to do,” she said.

Beyond Old Hollywood’s history, Bee then cited the many stereotypes of Asians in recent years, such as one particular scene in 2012’s “Ted.”

Bee concluded by calling on Hollywood to be better about Asian representation.

“Some people think what happens in Hollywood doesn’t matter,” she said. “But seeing yourself reflected in the culture does matter. And seeing other people’s stories makes it harder to deny their humanity.”

Bee’s criticism of Hollywood follows that of former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who said that Hollywood should create better Asian characters for actors to play.

“How having characters like Hop Sing (Bonanza) and Hey Boy (Have Gun Will Travel) shuffling about happily serving their white bosses gave the impression that Asian males were grateful, sexless servants,” he wrote. “Asian women were generally beautiful, demure, sexy servants in need of protection from the gun-toting white males. Bruce did his best to destroy those stereotypes by becoming the virile action hero in Hong Kong movies that Hollywood wouldn’t let him be.”

“Flash forward 55 years and, with a few notable exceptions, the demeaning stereotypes remain and have born bitter fruit: The recent mass murder of Asian Americans in Atlanta is only one of the thousands of racially motivated incidents against the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) community in the past year,” he continued. “Fueled by moronic politicians’ references to COVID-19 as the ‘China virus’ or ‘Kung flu,’ hate crimes against Asian Americans increased in 2020 by 150 percent and, as daily attacks around the country show, it’s only getting worse. Sadly, the most disturbing part isn’t the increase in violence, it’s how little it takes to trigger that violence — as if attackers are just waiting for an excuse to express their ignorance.”

Abdul-Jabbar said that some misperceptions about Asians could be solved if only Hollywood would put out more nuanced Asian characters. He also called for the removal of any and all past stories that featured harmful racial stereotypes.

“The most egregious ones should be pulled from circulation, and those that have some historical value should come with a warning in the beginning that the content features harmful racial stereotypes, as has been done for films like Gone With the Wind that perpetuated dangerous Black stereotypes,” he wrote.

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