A while back, I wrote a rant on Pacific Rim's conspicuous lack of women, but I feel that I failed to really go into depth about the movie's one really prominent woman, Mako Mori. While the physical lack of women is still problematic, what was actually somewhat refreshing was that the lone speaking woman didn't seem, to me at least, like any particular "Asian" stereotype.
She wasn't a Dragon Lady or a reclusive, submissive flower. She was instead a headstrong, competent, physically strong, funny, smart and deeply emotional woman. Sure, she was "good at martial arts" and gave the ol' "respect" line when talking about her boss, but otherwise I thought the lack of oriental fetishism displayed by the writer was remarkably progressive for what was otherwise a big dumb movie full of stereotypes (that I loved, to be clear).
What is also clear is that Rinko Kikuchi is herself smart and talented and funny and absolutely gorgeous.
So why oh why does nearly every comment section of any article about her turn into a debate about "western women" vs. "asian women"?
Is Orientalism still such a blinding "other" for people that they have to treat all Asian actresses as ambassadors of their race while they sit there talking about the "submissive woman" stereotype and how Asian women make the best wives?
This is something that's been bothering me for a while, mostly because, living in Vancouver, I have several Filipino, Chinese and Japanese co-workers and friends and, surprise surprise, they're not all bowing giggling schoolgirls or firey, cruel, cold dragon women. They're... people.
I'd love to see Rinko go much further in this industry, but I worry at how dominant this problem of perception is for people; that they can't see an Asian woman without thinking about "Asian women" as some kind of homogeneous whole. Especially when that homogeneous whole is meant to signify a woman who is loyal and knows how to treat and please a man. All the while, they're completely ignoring the fact that the article is about a woman who's doing a job and gaining press for doing that job — not about who she's dating and whether or not she treats him "like a proper asian woman should."