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Over 20 years after Lucy Liu starred in the first Charlie's Angels film, the actress is reflecting on how her role changed Asian representation in Hollywood.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Liu wrote about not having seen anyone on TV, in movies, or on magazine covers who "looked like me or my family," and how fortunate she felt to have had a hand in "mov[ing] the needle" when it comes to inclusivity in media. However, she said, "there is still much further to go" in dismantling Asian stereotypes onscreen, especially amid a time of surging attacks against Asian people.
"Hollywood frequently imagines a more progressive world than our reality; it's one of the reasons Charlie's Angels was so important to me," she wrote. "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."
"Asians in America have made incredible contributions, yet we're still thought of as Other," she continued. "We are still categorized and viewed as dragon ladies or new iterations of delicate, domestic geishas — modern toile. These stereotypes can be not only constricting but also deadly."
Liu pointed to the Atlanta shooting in March that left six Asian women dead, writing, "The man who killed eight spa workers in Atlanta, six of them Asian, claimed he is not racist. Yet he 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."
"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," she wrote. "How can we grow as a society unless we take a brutal and honest look at our collective history of discrimination in America? It's time to Exit the Dragon."