The latest episode of 'Archetypes' took on 'dragon ladies' and the 'fantasy of Orientalism.'
In the first episode of Archetypes since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan Markle spoke on the stereotypes surrounding Asian women in movies. She and guests Margaret Cho and Lisa Ling spoke on the trope of the "Dragon Lady," with the actresses explaining how problematic the idea of the Asian femme fatale can be. Markle explained that she had been exposed to Asian culture, having grown up in Los Angeles, but she is still learning about the way that different depictions of Asian women on screen can lead to things like Asian hate crimes.
Markle said that as she grew up exploring Los Angeles with her mother, going to Little Tokyo and Korean spas. "The multitude of Asian cultures was a huge part of that," she explains. But she noted that she was still somewhat unaware that certain films didn't have the most positive portrayal of Asian people, saying, "movies like Austin Powers and Kill Bill — they presented these caricatures of women of Asian descent as oversexualized or aggressive. This toxic stereotyping of women of Asian descent [...] this doesn't just end once the credits roll."
Cho came on to speak about the "dragon lady" characters that featured in movies during the early days of Hollywood.
"It's similar to the femme fatale [...] a woman who is beautiful and deadly. Because we can't just be beautiful. We have to have, like it has to come at a cost and it's kind of like, evil queen adjacent. But it's also so pinned to this idea that Asianness is an inherent threat. That our foreignness is somehow 'gonna getcha,'" she said. "The mystery and the exoticism of it is part of it. And unfortunately, that trope has really stuck to film, but also to Asian-American women or Asian women."
Cho went on to say that she was "raised" by TV and movies while she grew up in San Francisco and noticed the lack of representation.
"I never saw Asian people in them, and so I never felt visible. I never felt seen anywhere. And then later, I guess, I started to go into silent films, and I started to realize, 'Oh, this is actually like an archetype, this archetype of the Dragon Lady,'" she added.
Lisa Ling also noted that the lack of representation was clear, adding that it was one of the reasons she pursued journalism and broadcasting. She, like Cho, said that she spent a lot of time watching TV and didn't see herself in any of the characters.
"To be honest with you, the reason why I pursued broadcast journalism at all was because growing up, it's the only path that I thought was available to me. I was someone who grew up in a broken home," she told Markle. "My parents were divorced when I wa 7, and the television was always on in my home. It was like my favorite babysitter. And I used to have these fantasies of, of being part of it somehow, because I thought, if I can get on TV, maybe I, I will have a better life one day. But no one looked remotely like me on TV except for Connie Chung."