It’s safe to say Asians have divided opinions regarding Lucy Liu. She is undoubtedly one of the most successful (if not the most successful) actors of Asian descent in Hollywood. While most Asians would be happy for her relative success, some believe a woman of her talent does not deserve such achievements that have eluded many an Asian actor or actress. Let’s break it down”¦
Lucy Alexis Liu (åŠ‰çŽ‰çŽ², Lia!º Ya!¹la!ng) was born December 2, 1968 in Queens, New York to Taiwanese immigrant parents. Typically Asian, her family only spoke Mandarin at home and thus she did not learn English until she was five years old. She started acting in 1989 and broke through to the mainstream with roles in Ally McBeal, Kill Bill and both Charlie’s Angels films. Considering her impressive, but not THAT impressive CV, Lucy Liu is far from the biggest success in Hollywood. However, looking at the state of Asian actors in the largest film industry in the world, she is pretty much the main shining light; along with (#27) Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee (RIP) & Jet Li (#33). Considering though, that those aforementioned few are somewhat niche actors specializing in the martial arts genre, Lucy Liu is possibly the poster girl for Asian actors in Hollywood.
[She's the one on the left, if you hadn't already realized; as one of Charlie's Angels]
[Here she is again, 3rd from the left, headlining the (now axed)
Sex And The City clone Cashmere Mafia, playing Mia Mason, which evidently wasn't a token Asian role. Yay!]
Kudos on Lucy Liu for doing what so precious few Asians manage to achieve in such a cutthroat business such as Hollywood. There is one small catch though. One wouldn’t call it resentment, but there is a feeling of, well”¦ resentment or perhaps you’d label it antipathy towards her; especially from non-Westernized Asians who believe her success is somewhat unwarranted. There is some truth in this belief. Well-renown and more highly respected Asian actors such as Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Andy Lau & Joan Chen can gain multiple plaudits domestically in Asia, but find it hard to make their dent where it matters most – in Hollywood.
Furthermore, those precious few Asian actors who manage to make that dent in Hollywood, usually have to lower their standards and take that token Asian role, such as Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, Chow Yun-Fat & Zhang Ziyi just to name a few. Lucy Liu, on the other hand does not often encounter such problems, as evidenced by her ‘ability” to transcend race, and take on many diverse roles that could well be played by a person of any race. As an Asian-American, she can already claim to have one foot in the door, where her rivals across the continent, do not. As a rule, Hollywood prefers their Asians to have that American twang – or at least be able to fake it – and Lucy Liu can do that with ease (what with actually being American and all). Hollywood, being the shallow, image-obsessed entertainment machine that it is, also generally likes their Asians to be attractive. Thus that leads to”¦
“¦The eye candy factor. Our girl Lucy doesn’t mind playing that girl who’s just another pretty face, the regulation love interest, or even demeaning herself somewhat for B-grade flicks (see Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever & Code Name: The Cleaner). Heck, those Asian genes of hers give her that ethnic flavor that Hollywood loves! But hold on, there are plenty of pretty Asian girls out there that Hollywood can use as eye-candy. Why’s Ms. Liu so special?
Well for one, the ability to speak proper American-English (rather than that dreaded thing known as Chinglish) allows for roles where she can actually be more than just eye-candy, and therefore have some substantial dialogue where need be. She’s not the most talented actress in the world, but she isn’t the worst either, so that’s a bonus, you’d suppose. Consider, there are a plethora of attractive, reasonably talented, aspiring Asian actors and actresses who can speak fluent American-English who can only dream of reaching the comparably lofty heights of Lucy Liu’s career. Reflecting over this, with all respect to our Lucy, it would be fair to say she is what you’d call a “˜crack in the system’, achieving where her fellow Asians could not. Keep in mind that this is not an Anti-Lucy Liu rant, but if it was, at least one could say that she has her looks to fall back on. Or does she?
This leads in to people’s perceptions of attractiveness. The general belief from the West is that Lucy Liu is an extremely attractive woman. Hey, if she makes Maxim’s Hot 100 Lists then it’s gotta be true! However, if you ask an Asian male born and bred in the East, it’s unlikely the sentiment will be shared. For some reason, Asians don’t think much of Lucy Liu’s looks. Perhaps it’s due to the Asian tendency to value certain physical aspects (such as large, rounded eyes) as well as those non-physical aspects (such as that indescribable wholesome “˜Asian’ image) that a Lucy Liu may lack. Hmmm, perhaps that’s why she only seems to date white guys”¦ (I’m looking your way “Stuff White People Like”, as per #11 on your list, and the corresponding #38 on our list…)
Doesn’t it say something, when the supposed ‘poster girl” for Asians in the biggest film industry in the world isn’t actually that great. Lucy Liu is a fine actress, and she does a relatively good job of representing Asians decently in such a prominent spotlight, but let’s face it – she’s no Julia Roberts or Jodie Foster. Why then is it, that there is an abundance of Asians at the pinnacle of other professions such as business, or I.T, but there are so few at the pinnacle of showbusiness? That’s probably a question best answered by someone else”¦ Regardless of our personal opinions on Lucy Liu, Asians have to recognize that without her presence, the current situation for Asians in Hollywood would be an even more dire circumstance. If anything, she could be seen as a trailblazer possibly for more Asians to break into Hollywood in the future.
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