There is a plague that targets Asian women at an alarming rate and causes them to unceremoniously meet their demise.
Shall we pray?
Or shall we say, “What the fuck?”
A plague would be a plausible explanation.
Sixteen Asian American women left us in the last twelve months. Some went out with a bang. And some went without a whisper. Because their throats were slit.
Television deaths these days have been commonplace. But as Asian Pacifics have been making strides on television, they’ve also experienced a disproportional amount of deaths. And their deaths are not like cool deaths. Joffrey’s death on Game of Thrones was kind of cool. The killing of Parminder Nagra’s character on The Blacklist was matter of fact. Granted, the way that Beverly was sliced like salami was shocking, but we didn’t even get to see the actual Lecter “expertly squeeze the life” out of her and showcase her dissections in plexiglass.
That death on Hannibal in fact failed to make Most Shocking Deaths lists for this season. In fact, none of the ‘Being Asian Women” deaths did. That the death of Crazy-Awesome Mona on Pretty Little Liars was topped by the obvious, must-do death of Crazy-Stupid Lizzie on The Walking Dead is mind-blowing…err, literally.
At least Mona’s death—though another one not shown—was significant enough to close the summer season of PLL. Yes, Nagra’s Meera died on the season finale, but her death was trumped by the unconfirmed death of Tom Keen.
What does this all mean—besides the fact that I watch a shitload of TV? (And I’m not totally caught up so there may be more. And let’s not forget the quick and sudden death of Tzi Ma’s characters on Once Upon a Time and Agents of Shield, Kevin Tran on Supernatural, Issa Nazir on Homeland etc, etc.)
It’s no longer far-reaching to posit that there’s a direct link between the disregard toward Asian Pacific life in media and the gradations of devaluation exacted upon APs in real life. 125 years of Madame Butterfly regurgitations no doubt contributes to the “expendability of life” mindset that Westmoreland articulated and still proliferates today.
In his brilliant thesis book, “On Visual Media Racism” Eugene Franklin Wong drew a correlation between the rise of power of an Asian country to the rise of offensive depictions in media. We shouldn’t be shocked that 2 Broke Girl’s Han is the Stepin Fetchit for Asian Pacifics and that movies like Red Dawn and Olympus has Fallen riles up maelstroms of anti-Korean tweets. The situation however is different than it was, say in the 90s. Instead of the Japanese being the main target, the focus is widespread. With Asian nations surpassing the US as an economic force, anyone with narrower eyes is fair game.
How many times have you said, “Did they have to kill the Asian?” Sam was introduced as the lover of Alan Scott aka Green Lantern in issue #2. He died a “Women in Refrigerator” death in the same issue. There’s a reason for the without-conscience deletion of Shado on Arrow and the utter “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome” disappearance of Kelly Hu on The 100 grates.
Caricatures Come to Life
Television and film are political cartoons with movement and sound.
Even though we may understand that, it doesn’t make the agendas expulsed via entertainment any more palatable.
So we should be concerned that Parrish will return to PLL as a ghost, much like fellow hapa Nicole Gale Anderson did on Ravenswood (she was the lead character, for Christ’s sake).
And it may not be trivial that trivial characters like Shelby on Scandal, The Blacklist’s Luli, and Megan King on The Vampire Diaries died, even though they were not as pertinent as the deaths of James Novak and Bonnie and Damon. One would be a fool to not consider the wider scope especially in light of Skye almost dying on Agents of Shield.
Asian female actresses aren’t more adept at dying and suffering onscreen though it seems that it should be part of every acting school curriculum. You put these images together, and you practically have a snuff film.
And while Sandra Oh, Sandrine Holt, Kristin Kreuk, Ellen Wong, Jenna Ushkowitz, and Maggie Q weren’t exactly gunned down, and Janina Gavankar technically played a Greek witch, their disappearance from the screen is to be mourned just the same.
There’s no doubt that Asian women dying in entertainment—or as entertainment—is a trend that won’t expire. And definitely has people fearing that Constance Wu may meet her maker before the first season of Fresh Off the Boat is finished. Heck, if Mindy Kaling dies and comes back as a ghost, it’d be the Topper of an already ridiculous standard.
The Governor, Brody, Zoe, and Will Gardner were ones we wanted to die. Who in their right mind didn’t think Beverly was awesome? I guess the powers that be concluded that Asian faces had to be cleared out to give way to the so-called “Season of Diversity.”
At Least Mrs. Tran lives
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest), Grace Park (Hawaii 5-0), Lucy Liu (Elementary), and little Aubrey Anderson Emmons’ Lily on Modern Family are amongst the few still to carry the torch. It’s no wonder Melinda May and Mrs. Tran kicking ass is something to get excited about.
Though it is curious that Arrow provides more screen time for APs than shows based in Hawai’i or the Middle East.
If Korra dies—and she may well as it’s the last chapter—I’m done.
(Subtitle: The Dissection of Asian Women on TV)