Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rise of the Dragon Lady

        The first representation of the “Dragon Lady” did not come to be from night-to-day, it develop through series of events, the first being through cultivation. Americans were afraid that Asians were going to steal their farming business do to the fact that Asians were buying unwanted swamp land and making it prosper. An article by Hemant Shah, “Asian Culture” and Asian American Identities in the Television and Film Industries of the United States, states that, “White farmers were resentful because many Asians leased unwanted swamp land, made it arable, and competed successfully in the local produce markets.” Americans had to persuade others into believing Asians were a threat to the United States, so they used the media, which at the time only consisted of newspapers (1900-1930). The media had to show that Asians were a menace to the residents of the United States, so they wrote newspaper articles which stated, “We have four million of the degraded negroes (sic) in the South ... and if there were to be a flood tide of Chinese population–a population befouled with social vices, with no knowledge or appreciation of free institutions or constitutional liberty, heathenish souls and heathenish propensities, we should be prepared to bid farewell to republicanism” (Shah 3). Newspaper quotes like this made Americans think that Asians were a threat to the United States and therefore created the images that portrayed Asians as bad people.
        Asians in general were now represented poorly in the United States by the Newspapers, but it wasn’t until 1924, that Asian women were represented as the “Dragon Lady.” As the media looked more into Asian culture, they found that a particular Asian woman would do anything to dominate. Her name is Tsu-hsi, a Chinese Empress that believed in monarchy and stopped at nothing to be in control. A journalist stated that she was “a reptilian dragon lady who arranged the poisoning, strangling, beheading or forced suicide of anyone who challenged her rule” (Shah 3). That gave Americans the perception that there was more to be said about the “Dragon Lady,” therefore Hollywood brought the concept of the dragon lady when Raoul Walsh featured his film Thief of Baghdad in 1924. Shah, states “In Hollywood films, Asian women were depicted as diabolical, sneaky, and mean, but with the added characteristics of being sexually alluring and sophisticated and determined to seduce and corrupt white men. The prototype of this role was developed, albeit reluctantly, by Anna May Wong in serials and feature films such as the Thief of Baghdad” (Shah 3). The stereotype hasn't diminished and as more writers continue to misrepresent Asian women, it will continue to portray the angry, dominant Asian woman as the Dragon La. 

Work Cited

Shah, Hemant. “‘Asian Culture’ and Asian American Identities in the Television and Film Industries of       the United States”. Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, Volume 3, Issue 3 (August 2003). 

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