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LIFTING OF THE PERFUMED SHROUD

Interview with Sheridan Prasso
Author of the book "The Asian Mystique"

In a land perceived by the Western world as filled "Mystery and Sex, Fear and Desire"
Perception of The 'Orient' that has always meant lands far away,
full of opulence and sensuality, danger, depravity, and opportunity in Western eyes"
(Taken from Sheridan Prasso's "The Asian Mystique")

 

BALANCED MEDIA PORTRAYALS
US ASIANS: What are the main motivating factors that prompt a persistent fear to go beyond stereotypes to discover a balanced and accurate perception of the Asian communities within the business and entertainment worlds? What would motivate immediate attention and focus on accomplishing this - greed, money, power, etc.?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: The point of my book is to encourage this, but I don't have any concrete ideas for how to make it happen. If there is an economic incentive, it always makes things happen more quickly, however.

US ASIANS: Why do you feel that other ethnic minorities (i.e. Black, Hispanic, Irish, Jews, Gays/Lesbians, etc.) throughout U.S. history have been able to attain some semblance of balance while the Asian/Asian Pacific American communities have not?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: There is a lot of division among groups of various ethnic origins, and that prevents the A/P/A communities from speaking with a strong, unified voice. And, as I have said before, Asian Americans don't have an Al Sharpton who can quickly mobilize picket lines against racial injustice. That's needed.

US ASIANS: Hollywood projects Asian women as "dehumanized and sexually venerable" objects or as Dragon Ladies - just like women from other ethnic groups at various times, what would it take to get Hollywood to ALSO portray them with the emotions or the neuroses of real women? Do you feel that Sandra Oh on "Grey's Anatomy," Suchin Pak on MTV, Kristin Kruek on WB's "Smallville" and/or Grace Park on "Battlestar Galactica" are evidence that executives are changing their mindsets/opinions on Asian females being accepted in prominent/starring roles on television? What factors do you attribute to this trend and what do you feel is needed to continue this course of action?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: Demand always creates supply. Hollywood always has making money as its bottom line. If there is a large community to support such roles, and I mean in the multi-millions of dollars, they will start to happen. But as it is, most films with equitable roles for Asian women are relegated to art houses. Michelle Yeoh has said that she would only play non-stereotyped roles, and demanded a speaking part in the James Bond movie, so such assertions help somewhat. Yet, she appears in Memoirs of a Geisha, which features yet again the stereotypes of submissive, ever-devoted geisha girl (Zhang Ziyi) contrasted with the dominant Dragon Lady (Gong Li), so her decision to stand apart doesn't help that much after all.

Former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh says that her upcoming film "Memoirs of a Geisha"
should be received well in Japan, even though many of the main roles are played
by ethnic Chinese actresses, a newspaper reported Monday.
For more info, click
HERE.

US ASIANS: You've stated that "Western culture has allowed other races to balance out similar patronization with more positive representations . . . 'We have not yet begun such scrutiny on behalf of Asians" - why hasn't the various financial forces and rewards motivate a more accurate understanding of how to effectively deal with Asians?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: Once there is sufficient market - in the millions - it will happen. Or, more Asian actresses could take stances like Michelle Yeoh or Margaret Cho have done. Then again, as Anna May Wong found out when she refused the role of mistress in The Good Earth (the only role she was offered because she was refused the leading role of O-lan, given to Louise Rainer), there is always some younger, hungrier aspiring actress waiting in the wings and willing to play it.

Michelle Yeoh Bridging East & West

Yeoh: Well, when I did - I've done two films, "The Touch" and "Silver Hawk." We really wanted to be able to bridge the east and the west. I think it's very important. Films are very - an amazing way for people to understand more about each other's cultures; to visit places where you might not have the opportunity to go to, at the present moment in time.
For more info, click
HERE.

US ASIANS: Remembering your observations agreed by many that "Asian males don't pose a masculine threat, or play masculine heroes who get the girl, in Hollywood movies" - would the advent of highly acclaimed Asian movies being played in the U.S., male actors of Asian descent in Hollywood films and/or the fast-growing importance of the International audiences to a movie's success create a day in the near future where we will have the next Asian/Asian American matinee male actor star along the lines of Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, etc.?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: We already have Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan, and it hasn't happened yet.

US ASIANS: When do you feel actors like Jet Li, who through various past films such as "Kiss of the Dragon" and "Unleashed," have followed paths previously blazed by White action actors such as John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis will start changing the perceptions of Asian males?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: When they get to kiss the girl. So far, Hollywood directors have deemed that off limits for mass audience release in America. The kiss scene between Aliyah and Jet Li at the end of Romeo Must Die got cut after it tested badly in screenings. When that finally changes, then perhaps those perceptions will begin to change.

US ASIANS: Recognizing that identified that Hollywood placed Anna May Wong's film characters into three separate categories - The Geisha Girl/Lotus Flower: docile, obedient, reverential, The Vixen/Sex Nymph: coquettish, manipulative and The Prostitute: helpless, good-natured at heart - why would a Jewish-run industry (at that time) led an ethnic minority (Jewish) executives used exclusively White actresses to play Asian/Chinese roles (i.e. Pearl Buck's The Good Earth and Dragon Seed) - especially when a highly-qualified actress existed in Anna May Wong?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: At that time in American history, anti-miscegenation laws in California prohibited intermarriage between races, and that meant Hollywood did not allow cross-racial love scenes. Because a white male was cast in the leading role, the studio said it had to cast a white woman, Louise Ranier, as well.

US ASIANS: What do you attribute to Hollywood's great interest in utilizing martial arts in the vast majority of fight scenes in Hollywood that has resulted in prominent Asian martial art choreographers teaching the White Star how to fight?

Media's Unfortunate Choices

LOST EMPIRE
Read the article on the many misguided and unfortunate choices made by NBC.

PEARL HARBOR
Review background information on the film "Pearl Harbor" that illustrates the many fears that the Japanese and Asian American communities had about this film.

ROMEO MUST DIE
Discover some possible reasons why Jet Li never got to "Kiss the Girl" in this remake of "Romeo and Juliet." Isn't this supposed to be a romance?

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
Delve into the many Asian female stereotypes existing in this upcoming Steven Spielberg movie based on the original book.

ICEBOX.COM'S "MR. WONG"
Various perspectives are shared on why any negative and damaging stereotypes should always be directly addressed.

SHERIDAN PRASSO: I have made this observation in my book.

US ASIANS: Could the continue existence of the "Asia of Western Imagination" (i.e. exotic, incense-scented, mystical, sensual, servile, sexual, steely and/or cold) and/or their respective "Asian Female Fetish" be the result of meeting the needs of the American male population that are not met within their own environment?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: That is one factor. It's a complicated issue, and the long history of East-West interaction, as well as the perpetuation of images in Hollywood and media also played a role.

US ASIANS: How would you explain the persistent stereotypes of people of Asian descent in the United States within the media despite the following:

  • Asian/Chinese Americans have been here since the 1600s and have even fought in the Civil War
  • Actor Sessue Hayakawa gain international fame (often co-starring with White female stars) that provided a salary of $5,000 per week/$2M a year during the early 20th century while winning a Oscar nomination for his role in "Bridge Over the River Kawai" and acquiring longtime fans such as Humphrey Bogart, etc.

SHERIDAN PRASSO: The stereotypes were created long before Asian immigrants to America, long before Hollywood. Our images of "Orient" date back to the ancient Greeks, and have been around for centuries of East-West interaction. Hollywood only helps perpetuate them, but they existed long before its advent.

US ASIANS: Why do you feel that various images throughout history seen in prominent American films such as Sessue Hayakawa's The Dragon Painter, Anna May Wong in Picadilly, the fame of San Francisco's Forbidden City Night Club, Rogers and Hammerstein/David Henry Hwang's Flower Drum Song, Bruce Lee films, James Shigeta films (i.e. Crimson Kimono, Bridge to the Sun and Paradise: Hawaiian-Style), John Frankenheimer's The Challenge, Margaret Cho's All American Girl, ABC's Anna May Wong show, the Don Ho television program, Joy Luck Club, The Last Emperor, Tomorrow Never Dies, Mulan and Snow Falling in Cedars haven't changed American perceptions of Asians?

SHERIDAN PRASSO: The stereotypes were created long ago, long before Hollywood, long before these roles on TV. Hollywood only helps perpetuate them, but they existed long before its advent. The predominant images that we get of Asians are stereotyped ones, and noting the exceptions does not change the rule.

US ASIANS: What recommendations would you provide to Asian Pacific American Media Coaltion (along with organizations such as MANAA)/Media Coaltion led by the NAACP to more effectively address the way that Asians are portrayed in the media.
SHERIDAN PRASSO: How about supporting an Al Sharpton for the Asian American community?

  Continue this interview by clicking HERE

 
Read about Sheridan's many perspectives on the "Asian Mystique" by clicking on the below-listed links
Note: "AFM" = Asian Female Mystique About Sheridan Prasso Accurate Portrayals Activism
Anna May Wong "AFM" - Conditions & Reasons "AFM" - History "AFM" - The Existing Status
Asian Pacific American Communities Asian Stereotypes Affecting APAs Balanced Media Portrayals Blind-Casting (Mr. Hwang)
Blind-Casting Business Changes? Course of Action
Daring AM/WF Films Difference Between European & Asian Divide Dr. Wen Ho Lee Films with AM/WF Romances
Historical Anti-Asian Racism History Images are Powerful Interracial Marriage Facts
Media's Bad Choices Memoirs of a Geisha Michelle Yeoh Multiracial Attitudes
Politics Purpose Behind the Book Sheridan's Recommendations Stereotyped Asian Males
Valid Commentary? U.S.' "Crotch-Forward/Chest-Out" Attitude UCLA Syndrome Western Mentality
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