Hollywoods Long History of Propaganda Films and Stereotypes

Jan 2016
1984, all over again
On Turner Classic Movies I watched the “Daughter of the Dragon,” (1931) a story about a Chinese villian and immediately contrasted it with 'proper Englishman' stereotype character in the film.

It turns out, it wasn't my imagination. Anna May Wong, the lead actress of the film, herself left
America for Europe tired of being portrayed as criminals, and so forth ... this film was particularly
retrograde, with Asian women always bowing to British white males.

By Edward Yudelovich
Published Mar 9, 2012

"The U.S. motion picture industry has a record of advocacy of imperialist wars, racism, sexism and all forms of bigotry. This was the obstacle course through which Anna May Wong — star of more than 50 films and the first Chinese-American star of her own TV show — had to navigate."


"Just as the great African-American entertainer and Civil Rights activist Josephine Baker received greater respect for her art when she left the racist U.S. for Europe, Wong became a sensation, starring in such notable films as “Schmutziges Geld” (“Song and Show Life,” 1928) and “Großstadtschmetterling” (“City Butterfly”).

Wong began using her newfound celebrity to make political statements, including harsh criticism of the 1931 Mukden Incident and Japanese imperialism’s subsequent invasion of Manchuria. She also became outspoken in her advocacy for Chinese-American causes and for better film roles. In a 1933 interview for Film Weekly entitled “I Protest,” Wong criticized the negative stereotyping in “Daughter of the Dragon,” “Why is it that the screen Chinese is always the villain? And so crude a villain — murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass! We are not like that. How could we be, with a civilization that is so many times older than the West?”

Wong returned to the U.S. in June 1935 with the goal of obtaining the role of O-lan, the lead female character in MGM’s film version of Pearl Buck’s novel, “The Good Earth.” Instead Wong was offered the part of Lotus, a character described as being deceitful because she helped to destroy the family. Wong refused the role because of the unsympathetic character she was asked to play.

Despite the fact that Buck had intended the film to be cast with all Chinese or Chinese-American actors, producer Irving Thalberg’s assistant, Albert Lewin, after testing Anna May and other Chinese actors, argued that despite their ethnicity, they did not fit “his” conception of what Chinese people looked like. Instead he selected German actress Luise Rainer for the role of O-lan, for which she won her second consecutive Academy Award.

In the 84-year history of the Academy, no female Chinese American or woman of Chinese descent has ever won the Oscar in the best actress or best supporting actress categories.

In 2007, Asian-American filmmaker Elaine Mae Woo paid tribute to Wong’s legacy and perseverance with the acclaimed documentary “Anna May Wong: Frosted Yellow Willows, Her Life, Times and Legend.” (“Frosted Yellow Willows” is Wong’s birth name in English.) "



Much in the same way, of course, in later decades of the 1980's and 1990's Russia would protest vocally resenting the way Hollywood always portrayed Soviets as villians and terrorists ...

So - why hasn't anything changed ?

Hasn't the digital world, and Globalism made America any more sophisticated ?

Aren't Hollywood types more Progressive now ?

Or do the Spielbergs of the world still require dark skinned, Arabs wielding swords in Raiders, or crazed, bloodtirsty, Indian cannibals for Temple of Doom ?

Why isn't Hollywood changed since Alfred Hitchcocks first WWII propaganda films made for the British Ministry of Information?


"The intricately plotted films--the 26-minute "Bon Voyage" and the 31-minute "Aventure Malgache"--were made in 1944 when, at the request of the British Ministry of Information, Hitchcock returned to England from Hollywood to make anti-Nazi propaganda movies. "

How Hitchcock Fought Nazis : The Master Made Two Propaganda Films That Haven't Been Seen Here, Until Now - latimes

Also concerning Alfred Hitchcock - why were his women always so shallow, vain and venal ?

Tippi Hedren on Why She Went Public About
Being Sexually Abused by Alfred Hitchcock

By Brent Lang


What's wrong with Hitchcock's women?

by Bidisha

"Hitchcock's women are outwardly immaculate, but full of treachery and weakness. But, hurrah, he doesn't kill them all."


I love that combination of stereotypes: we're stupid, cunning, soft-hearted and traitorous, all at the same time. Only in the mind of a true hater can these contradictory qualities come together in the nasty piece of work that is Woman."


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