Yeoh’s speech at Golden Globe Awards shows Hollywood’s racial stereotypes
Published: Jan 13, 2023 12:38 AM
Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng Photo:Sina Weibo

Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng Photo:Sina Weibo

Asian actress Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng won the best actress award for Everything Everywhere All at Once at the Golden Globe Awards on Tuesday local time, becoming the second Asian actor to win the award. Her speech on the stage revealed years of racism against Asian minorities in Hollywood. 

"I remember when I first came to Hollywood. It was a dream come true until I got here, because, look at this face. I came here and was told, 'You are a minority.'" She shared her story of being shadowed  by racism in her early days in Hollywood. Yeoh's speech revealed the barriers faced by many Asian actors who have worked very hard but were offered little opportunity to make their Hollywood dreams a reality.

Asian communities have historically been frequently marginalized in the US, and this includes Asian actors in Hollywood. For years, Hollywood engaged in sick racial stereotypes: Asians are nerdy, Blacks are dangerous and Latinos are fiery. 

The racism has actually become a "convention" in Hollywood: Production teams were reluctant to hire minority actors of any kind. It was not until they were criticized and protested against that they had to give minorities some opportunities as a form of charity. But even in that case, film magnates have a ranking list in their hearts: hiring Black people as the priority and possibly Asians in second place.

Yeoh recalled that when she first arrived in Hollywood, someone told her: "If we use a black male lead, there is no way for you to play a female lead, because we cannot have two minorities."

Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi also confirmed the common practice. She said in an interview that "Hollywood bullies Asian actors. They will give you very low wages as they know you're desperate for the opportunity. The roles they give Asians are very superficial. If there is a role with little depth, they will give priority to black actors. In Hollywood's giant vanity fair, if you need attention you can get a lot, but if you want to be a real actor, you can't get more."

In catering to "political correctness," Hollywood has produced a handful of minority movies, but the characters are often stereotypes. Yeoh's "I could beat you up" statement has shown the voice of the racial group who want to fight against the stereotype. 

While enduring the prejudices in Hollywood for so many years, Yeoh finally ushered in the opportunity to win the award in her 60s. 

The author is an editor of the Global Times.