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Negative Portrayal of Chinese in Hollywood Movies

Popularity 6Viewed 10182 times 2016-7-11 21:35 |System category:News| Negative, Portrayal, Chinese, Hollywood, Movies

Lately, I was blessed with the luxury of having a great deal of time on my hands after finishing my teaching assignment for the school year.

I thought that I should seize that opportunity to pursue one of my favorite hobbies, which is watching movies. To be frank, I have no apprehension to admit that I love watching films in general and Hollywood movies in particular.

Watching one movie after another, I was shocked to discover that the villain in most of them was Chinese. That led me to investigate the issue further by going back in time and watching movies from various decades.

I realized that during the cold war, the villains were Russians. Most movies had Russian villains who intended to control the universe. Fortunately for the human race, an American hero or heroine came to rescue to rid the world of them.

After the civil movement that led to the abolishment of slavery and segregations, the villains became African Americans. Films portrayed them as criminals who were adamant in destroying the American way of life by committing heinous crimes.

Through the rising importance of the oil for the industrial revolution worldwide, the villains were Arabs. Movies portrayed Arabs as fanatics who referred to violence to spread Islam.

Finally, with the spread of the Chinese influence and the rise of the Chinese economy, most Hollywood movies followed their biased attitude to portray Chinese in a negative role. The Chinese Triad became a fixed villain figure in most of the recent Hollywood movies.

One may ask about the relevance between the negative portrayal of Chinese in Hollywood movies and foreigners’ distorted perceptions about China and its distinguished citizens.

Common sense would lead us to believe that despite knowing the difference between movies and actual life events, we tend to be influenced by the ideas explored in movies.

Take me as an example, watching numerous movies that portrayed Chinese negatively created, within me an apprehension to fulfill my lifelong dream of visiting China.

The same stands true for some of my friends in Canada who declined my repeated invitations to come for a visit to China with lame excuses.

One may wonder about the reasons that would prompt Hollywood to resort to such biased and undeserved treatment of Chinese in its movies.

Movie goers seem to be drawn to action movies, which follow the typical formula of good vs. Evil in which most of the times the American heroes rush to rescue the whole universe in a feel-good ending.

With the illogical fear that is acquired by most Americans regarding the rising power of China, it is reassuring that the villain, which is Chinese is defeated or destroyed by the hero or the heroine in the movie.

Portraying Chinese as villains in movies accomplishes two fundamental objectives. The first objective is convincing the American public that Chinese possess bad and aggressive intentions toward them, which would justify the tough stands that some American politicians are taking toward the rise of the Chinese influence. The second objective is escalating and affirming the negative perceptions of Americans regarding Chinese.

What could be done to rectify the situation and to improve the image of Chinese in movies worldwide?

Wealthy Chinese could produce international movies or finance other films that portray Chinese positively. They should ensure its worldwide distribution.

Another option is to use the Chinese influence in Hollywood to protest portraying Chinese in a non-flattering roles.

Chinese writers ought to emphasize the success of distinguished Chinese in many domains of life.

Successful Chinese Americans must make their voices heard in their neighborhoods and in their workplaces. They should open channels of communications with their American or Western friends and acquaintances to convince them that the portrayal of Chinese in Hollywood movies is biased, distorted and motivated by a hidden political agenda.

Lately, it seems that a slight change of attitude is taking place. Some of the current Hollywood movies that are playing in Beijing are portraying Chinese in reasonably positive roles. However, Hollywood has a long way to go to treat Chinese fairly in its movies.

My article expresses an objective point of view from a foreigner who has no motive other than stimulating some people enough to give the issue some thoughts.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (6 comments)

Reply Report HailChina! 2016-7-12 13:32 (Pending for approval)
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Reply Report voice_cd 2016-7-13 17:09
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-7-14 19:52
You could write a similar blog entitled ''Negative Portrayal of Japanese/Foreigners in Chinese Movies' by substituting the word 'Chinese' with the word 'Japanese'.

How old were the movies you watched? 10 years old? 20? 30?
I laugh when I read people criticise what was acceptable in movies 30, 40, 50 years ago because they conform to the norms of the time, whereas Chinese tv/film norms for the portrayal of non-Chinese has not changed much at all in the intervening years.

Equally, non-Chinese don't give two hoots about how old films portray them because they were only reflecting the official attitude of the time. It is more worrying that there has been no change in how non-Chinese are portrayed now.
I see on Chinese tv today programs, that are available for children to see, portraying Japanese as the villains and being killed in a graphic manner, and these are clearly condoned by the official attitude, because we all know that nothing can be broadcast on Chinese tv that is not subject to censorship.
Reply Report jaseminsibo 2016-7-20 07:12
Good point. Planning to watch the latest Star Trek installment with Donnie Yen in it. Yes the stereotype of martial artist is still there, but would be interesting to see the personality of the character.
Reply Report Ted180 2016-7-20 20:21
Speaking from Canada (which is usually just a copy of the USA), I find Chinese people are highly respected here. In fact, all Asians (other than Arabs who are tainted by Islamism) are respected in Canada. I think it's similar in the USA (regardless of movies).
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-7-21 20:37

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