Quotable: Hyphen Magazine on Hanna, Sexuality, and Asian Heroines

Man. Had Hanna been Asian American, it could have been revolutionary.

Just as a feebly comedic aside: Hanna is socially awkward, has encyclopedic knowledge of languages and geography, and her overprotective dad’s motto is “Adapt or die.” If that’s not an Asian American family, I don’t know what is.

But really, if there’s anything that we need when it comes to Asian American representation in media, it’s some damn re-centering.

A young Asian American female who is not marked by hypersexuality, passivity, or deviousness but by fierce strength and actual character development in a non-martial arts movie? We don’t have too many role models that fit that criteria, from any age range. Maggie Q is fairly sexed out as a spy in Nikita as was Michelle Yeoh during her stint as a Bond girl. Lucy Liu and her other Charlie’s Angels often used their booties to help them solve cases. Liu’s O-ren Ishii had some depth in Kill Bill, though that depth was presented to us via anime flashback (cuz she’s part Japanese, y’all!). Ishii’s sidekick Gogo Yubari, she who donned the school girl’s uniform, was crazy good at combat but also just straight up crazy. Kelly Hu was virtually silent as villain Deathstrike in X2. In Sucker Punch, Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens get to battle but in an imaginary brothel world in skimpy costumes. African American, Latino, and other racial/ethnic groups have a similar laundry list of female archetypes that they wish they could finally shake.

– From “Lust Action Hero: Movie Heroines and Why I Wish Hanna Had Been Asian-American,” by Sylvie Kim


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  • http://twitter.com/GREGORYABUTLER Gregory A. Butler

    I DISLIKED Hanna precisely because it seemed like the male director was deeply uncomfortable with women’s sexuality.

    The heroine is a 16 year old who (unlike real world adolescents) is totally devoid of any sexual feelings, drives or interests whatsoever. She’s downright disgusted with male sexuality and actually punches a boy in the middle of a consensual make out session (because, of course, a ‘good girl’ would NEVER want to kiss a boy)!

    If that’s not bad enough, the only good adult women in the film are married women with children. The villain is a childless “career woman”.

    Worse yet, the evil childless career woman’s sadistic henchman is a gay man that owns a sex club that has transsexual women entertainers!

    In fact, we find out that he hires transsexual women entertainers to work in his club in the first scene where we meet him – and that apparently is “proof” of how evil he is!

    He’s aided by two evil gay skinhead thugs and they casually and matter-of-factly torture the evil childless career woman’s enemies with no conscience or remorse.

    Oh, and if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s an anti abortion subplot revealed in the climax of the film!

    I like action adventure movies where the heroines are allowed to be sexual – and yes, that includes heroines who are teenagers.

  • Mark

    I have to disagree with the author’s statement that Michelle Yeoh’s character in one of the James Bond movies was highly sexualized. That’s far from the truth. She was professional, deadly, smart, and sexy. But her sexiness was not portrayed as her foremost feature. She didn’t dress to impress or vamp.

  • http://heavyarmor.wordpress.com Heavy Armor

    But the flip side is this:

    If a Hanna-like film starring a young Asian-American female gathered the same box office returns as this one (as in, not very good), then the blame for such a box office disaster would have been placed squarely on the shoulders of the Asian-American star of said film. Such has been the way of Hollywood.

    (Aside: Although Hanna is not a ‘martial arts movie’ per se, it was marketed as ‘Bourne for Teenage Girls.’ That certainly did not help things.)

  • http://www.escarondito.blogspot.com Escarondito

    ” though that depth was presented to us via anime flashback (cuz she’s part Japanese, y’all!)”

    OK. That seems a little off. That was by far one of the best sequences of the film.

  • Molly Wyman

    A young Asian American female who is not marked by hypersexuality, passivity, or deviousness but by fierce strength and actual character development in a non-martial arts movie?

    There’s enough hand-to-hand fighting and parkour-type stuff in Hanna that I suspect, if the actress had been Asian-American, it would’ve been marketed/perceived as a martial arts movie.