Interview with Sheridan Prasso
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?
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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
Continue this interview by clicking HERE