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Is Lucy Liu a Heroine or a Curse?
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:59:43 PM)

he isn't exactly playing Suzie Wong, but actress Lucy Liu has chagrined Asian Americans nevertheless. As Ling Woo of Fox's Ally McBeal, she spouts lines like, "A woman hasn't got true control of a man until her hand is on the dumb stick," and, "There's nothing I enjoy more than seeing a happy couple and coming between them." The character is a self-described "tramp" who is simultaneously addicted to casual sex and uses sex to have her way with men. Being a creature of American TV, Ling's sexual encounters are never with Asian men, only adding fuel to the fire.
     But some think Liu deserves credit for having built near-icon status for a strong Asian female character out of the scraps she was initially thrown in her first Ally McBeal appearance in September 1998. Ling Woo was evidently to have been scenery for the Nelle Porter character but stole the spotlight and, thanks to a killer kiss, quickly became a regular.
     Liu's latter-day dragon lady has been deemed so compelling by American TV audiences that she often shares top billing with Calista Flockhart. Her overnight notoriety won her a lead in the Charlie's Angels movie in which she kicked ass, literally and figuratively, on par with the far better-paid Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore. Liu also landed the female lead in Jackie Chan's comic western Shanghai Noon and the role of a mafia dominatrix in the Mel Gibson flick Payback.
     Her sexual roles opposite mostly non-Asians have led many Asian Americans to call Liu a sellout. The facts suggest otherwise. Her family immigrated from China and settled in Queens where Lucy was born December 2, 1968. The area began its transformation from an Italian neighborhood to an Asian one as she entered grade school and Liu went through an identity crisis in the normal quest to fit in with peers. Upon graduating from Stuyvesant High, she spent an unhappy year at NYU, then transferred to Michigan at Ann Arbor where she managed to fit acting, dancing and singing into a degree program in Asian languages. She also studied an Indonesian martial art called Kali-Escrima-Silat. She speaks fluent Mandarin.
     None of that matters much, of course, to the countless Asian American women who suffer unwanted attention based on Liu's portrayal of the sexual predator Ling Woo. But some AA women are grateful that she has at least helped them shed the image of passive, submissive wallflowers. Many AA, of course, resent Liu for playing roles that reinforce the old stereotype of Asian women as being available to non-Asian men even as they applaud her for showing Asians to be English-speaking members of American society.
     All of which begs the question, is Lucy Liu a heroine or a curse for Asian American women?

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WHAT YOU SAY

[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]
Asian women who date white men are all insecure? I don't think so! Maybe some do, but I know some very strong Asian women who are married to or engaged to white men.

What's wrong with that? More power to them. I'm an Asian female who is attracted to white males (OH NO!) But then again, I'm also attracted to Asian males, Hispanic males, African American males, etc. If I find someone attractive, it's because I like the guy, for Pete's sake. I have no "insecurities" about who I am and where I am going in life. I'll settle down with whoever I want to settle down with.

The insecurities that some Asian females have come from their own culture many times. Many Asian females have to deal with everyday pressures that they should not have to endure. Parents pressuring them about marriage and career choices. Everyone pressuring them about gaining two pounds.

Lucy Liu should be commended for succeeding in her chosen field. I would also like to commend Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and other Asian actors for succeeding in the same field. Jet Li's love interest in "Romeo Must Die" was Aaliyah. OH NO!!!!
the carrot
   Monday, October 21, 2002 at 12:21:26 (PDT)    [65.204.211.10]
Midnight Kitty said that most high profile black males marry within their race.
I am a mixed black male who id's as black and I question this. I suggest taking a look at Wesley Snipes, Barry Bonds, O.J. Simpson and many other such.

As for Lucy Liu, I say keep on going. You can't please everyone. And, many idiots will complain no matter what you do.

I don't see her character as fitting into the gross stereotype of the past. Folks don't be overly sensitive. What role doesn't partially fit into some stereotype ? Look at what she is doing for you.

People need to realize that anyone --white or black or whatever-- who thinks she represents all Asians is an idiot. Some guys need to realize, such idiocy says something about white people. They don't have superior intelligence.

Black Op
afrosoul77@aol.com    Saturday, October 19, 2002 at 15:20:52 (PDT)    [64.12.96.205]
Ummm,
That's pathetic. Yeah, she looks like she might be half.
Hollywood sometimes gives people no credit (of course, sometimes it's deserved).

Maybe he's supposed to be an adopted daddy or some crap.
huu76
   Monday, October 14, 2002 at 20:05:53 (PDT)    [64.231.96.224]
Says on this page that in the 2003 Charlies Angel's movie, Lucy Liu's character's father is being played by John Cleese?!
..or did I read it wrong..

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0305357
umm....
   Sunday, October 06, 2002 at 07:24:19 (PDT)    [203.37.160.158]
The majority of high profile Black male personalities (Danzel Washington, Will Smith, Laurence Fishburne) married within their race (i.e., to Black women.)
However, almost ALL--if not outright ALL--high profile Asian American female personalities, actresses, news ladies, and book writers are married to White men. It is no secret that a great number of them also openly bashes Asian males.

As for Lucy Liu, she is an actress. She did not write her role in Ally McBeal. A bitch is one of the most interesting roles for actresses to take on. It would have extremely moronic of Lucy Liu to turn down such a role in a high profile television show.
Midnight Kitty
   Sunday, September 29, 2002 at 02:46:29 (PDT)    [207.167.96.75]
just a little comment about Lucy Liu's bio...Kali-Escrima-Silat is not an Indonesian martial art but a Filipino art...please get you facts straight...
me
   Wednesday, September 25, 2002 at 23:51:52 (PDT)    [24.54.48.202]
Thought we should cut out all the 'degrading to Asians' junk. Lucy Liu is an actress for goodness sake,not a figurehead for a particular race. Shouldn't we all be as one and ignore issues of creed and colour:I look at her and see a beautiful woman...is that acceptable coming from a white guy?
I Love Lucy
   Friday, September 13, 2002 at 15:49:41 (PDT)
I get so tired of labels like 'asian', 'black', 'white'. It's quite infuriating!
I may be being very idealistic, but I just wish that people would focus on the person, and less on the 'origin of the person'. It doesn't matter to me at all! My fiancee is Japanese, I'm English. So what? We get on great. Her 'asianess' isn't an issue in our relationship, nor is my 'Englishness'. We are people.

If, for example, Lucy Liu, wants to date 'white' boyfriends, it's entirely her choice. It's pathetic that anyone should suggest that she date 'asian' men. Why stop at 'asian'? Why not insist that she date 'Chinese' guys? In fact why stop there? Why not insist that she only date Chinese men from the area where her parents emigrated from? The whole idea is ludicrous, as I hope you can see.
Open minded AM, suggests that Lucy Liu dating white guys, is a negative. Why is this? I'd see this as 'integration', rather than 'seperation'.

The world is a small enough place, without people deciding which 'races' can, or can't become partners.!
Paul
   Friday, September 06, 2002 at 21:51:36 (PDT)
anyone seen her on the cover of the new Maxim? HOT!
af
   Tuesday, August 27, 2002 at 14:49:34 (PDT)
I know that most of you have only focused on the negative stereotypes to justify Lucy Liu's actions as an actress and as an Asian American celebrity, but can we focus more on the positive portrayls of Asian women roles, such as Michelle Yeow's in "Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon"? This way, we can come close to defining what is or maybe be a negative stereotyping of Asian women. Although this movie (CT &HD) was made by a Taiwanese director, he was by no means blind to the stereotyping of the Asian females in Hollywood. I am sure he had a clear and radical plan to create something other than what a typcially rascist and insensitive whitem men would like to see in an Asian female role. In this movie, he created a heroine that was original and profound- by Hollywood standards (actually two great heroines).

Why can't someone like Lucy Liu have her agent talk to Ang Lee to create more positive Asian Female roles? Maybe she has, who knows.

As a daughter of a Chinese immigrant and growing up with identity issues which all of us Asian Americans can relate to, Lucy Liu probably has carried this anger of being an American but having to carry the stigma of being "Asian".
I read that Natalie Wood was a daughter of Russian immigrants, but I never saw her having to play the role of a Russian female or speak Russian to apease to the Russian Americans.

I think Lucy Liu wants to be a "star" like any aspiring actress wants to be, but she is forced to become the "Asian star" which would seem limiting to any actress. If Natalie Wood was forced play anything but Russian female roles, i think she would have been marginalized as an actress and perhaps as a person as well. I think white America doesnt care if a white actor or an actress follows up with her European traditions, because ultimately they are the universal spokesperson of being the coolest human being. But white America and the rest of the world dictated by the hollywood machine come to think that ethnic stars need to distinguish themselves from white star not to tarnish the universal image of the whites. Untimately the white person's tastes will keep more white men as directors, producers, and moguls. It's ultimately about money and power, and Lucy Liu is only a soldier in this power game.

I believe what Lucy Liu is trying to do is to take as much role as she can where she is accepted as a "star" rather than as an "asian star". She is much of a victim to the whiteman hollywood game she is caught in as the Asian men who feels rejected sexually by white women. We are undoubtedly effected by the way hollywood slices trends with stereotypes. Media has strong influence on one's perspective at large.

Ultimately, things will change as we have seen this with the portrayl of African Americans in the media. The change happened when brave souls risked their careers and their paychecks to resist the stereotype because they didnt want others after them to face the same injustice and the indignity.

Is Lucy Liu doing anything right now to break the negative stereotype? No. Is she selfish? Perhaps. Does she have the righ to? Of course. Is she an Amy Tan of Hollywood, becoming the best seller by fitting into the White American stereotype taste? Most probably yes. Can she change that if she gains more power? Yes. It is ultimately up to what she decides to do with her power that will send a true message to Asian Americans and other Americans what it truly means to be an Asian American. Will she just be a victim of the whiteman Hollywood game or will she prevail to own and dictate her own true experience that includes interior insights, not just sexual fetishes.

The real issue is when will she be seen simply as a "star" rather than an "asian star" which will make her feel more at ease and will allow her to branch herself out make a true stament as a person not having to constantly play the race politics.

On the subject of her not dating Asian men, the reason for her not dating Asian men is important only because she needs to know what dictates her taste in men- the person or the secure feeling of fitting into the dominant race as a visable minority.
Open Minded AM
   Tuesday, August 20, 2002 at 12:00:32 (PDT)
John,

The problems with a white guy like yourself is that Asian women signals a sense of exoticism which inevitably only serves your libido.

Please spare your Universal Profundity Speech until you are accepted for the Nobel Peace Prize award for your humanitarian efforts. Until then, I suggest you wear a bib for your drooling mouth.

I tend to find white men who have problem staying in a loving relationship with their white counterpart or even able to gain a decent date with a white women tend to come to the defense of Asian American female rascist issues.

Believe it or not, a lot of Asian women suffer from lack of self esteem and in turn translate white men's "yellow fever" as a validation of their beauty or lack of it. This obviously is an insecurity problem not dealt internally but externally to satisfy white mainstream America.

Guys like you to tend to exploit the situation for your sexual pleasures and usually tend to end the relationship when the situation becomes real and all too human.

Shame on guys like you
Frustrated at Ignorant and Horny White Men
   Friday, August 16, 2002 at 19:22:27 (PDT)
There are larger issues that John doesn't understand. Case in point: Denzel Washington only wants black females to be his love interest. This is done to boost the poor image of black-females in the American media. One can also say that Asian-American men have a particularly poor image in the American media also ("small men" in all senses, and not physically desireable).
Denzel also wants to put down the "you have made it so now marry a white woman" attitude. In America, whites are the cream of the crop in beauty and status, and anyone who 'has made it' now achieves the right to marry a white man, or especially a white woman; case in point: black athletes who have white wives, and Sidney Poitier in 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?' (a black man who HAS to have status to be seen with a white woman).
Denzel Washington stands for unity between the black-American sexes, whereas Lucy Liu may be dividing the Asian-American sexes.
As the Brothers' Brothers, Tom and Tom, of 'In Living Color' put it, "marry a white woman, move to the suburbs, and totally sell out." You've made it.
asianDude
   Thursday, August 15, 2002 at 00:46:03 (PDT)

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