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Representations of Asians during WWII films

After reading Koppes' Hollywood and the Politics of Representation, it made me think about the portrayal of other identities in World War II movies and how it changed over time. As an Asian-American woman, I appreciate the notable progress and push for more representation of Asians in films and television. However, it still saddens me that the media typecasts Asians or seldom makes them lead roles. World War II's social, political, and historical context is one event to analyze the origins of the under-representation and stereotypical portrayal of Asians in film.


During World War II, the Allies (including the United States and China) fought against the Axis (including the Japanese), which fueled anti-Japanese activity and wartime propaganda. The United States government policy sent people of Japanese descent, including Japanese Americans, to internment camps while others joined the American military to prove their patriotism (History.com editors). Although the United and States were allies with China, Hollywood neglected to differentiate between Asian-American ethnicities in their films. Additionally, there are numerous films where casting agents selected white actors to play Asian characters.


Media socializes our norms, values, and our perspective of our world at large. The article highlighted how Hollywood screened films in other countries. According to Koppes, "The OWI movie liaison continued unabated through its Overseas Branch, but chastened BMP reviewers shifted from concern for black opinion to how the portrayal of blacks would affect the image of America abroad" (Koppes 35). Extending that line of thought to the portrayal of Asians in film, I wonder how China or other Asian countries at the time perceived the representation of themselves in American Media?


While whitewashing in mainstream media still occurs today, it sparked campaigns surrounding diversity in media. This awareness has led to more self-published works by Asian-Americans and the inclusion of Asian voices throughout the entire creative process. These pioneering efforts make me hopeful about diminishing racist representations of all people.

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