Skip To Content
  • asianpacificamerican badge

15 Problematic And Racist Portrayals Of East Asian People In TV Shows And Movies

"Makes me sick to my stomach."

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to share some of the problematic and racist depictions of East Asian people that they've seen in TV and movies.

Woman holding up a sign that says "Stop Asian hate crimes"
Ringo Chiu / Getty Images

Here are just some of their responses:

1. First, when Family Guy made a joke out of "sex slaves":


"Quagmire as a character was always horrible and abusive toward women, but there was one joke that implied he was keeping several Asian women locked in his basement as sex slaves. When they escape, all while naked and speaking in a racist caricature of an Asian language, Peter asks if they should go after the women, and Quagmire responds, 'It's fine, they're tagged!' Makes me sick to my stomach now. I can't believe Family Guy is still on the air, with new episodes still coming out."


2. In Cloud Atlas, when white actors wore yellowface:

Warner Bros.

"I get what they were going for with the futuristic world, but they pretty much put all the main non-Asian actors in yellowface."


3. In Bratz, when Jade's parents reinforced stereotypes about Asian parents:


"The group was very diverse and I loved it, but Jade had to sneak 'edgy' clothes out of the house that her parents would never let her wear. It reinforced the 'strict and conservative Asian parents' stereotype."


4. And when Gilmore Girls also enforced "tiger mom" stereotypes through Mrs. Kim:

Warner Bros.

"Lane’s mom in Gilmore Girls, Mrs. Kim, is a portrayal I absolutely hate. It enforces tiger mom stereotypes, and she is made to be the butt of so many jokes. Korea as a whole is antagonized — and Lorelai is so condescending toward her and treats her like a child. There are only like three characters of color in Gilmore Girls, so I wish they wouldn’t stereotype her so much — it’s hard for me to watch sometimes."


5. In Arrested Development, when the character Annyong barely even spoke:


"Annyong in Arrested Development! I remember Lucille talking about having to 'strip him down to nothing' to figure out he’s a boy, which is particularly gross."


6. In Freaky Friday, when the magic surrounding the Chinese restaurant was unbelievably stereotypical:

Buena Vista Pictures

"Rosalind Chao's character as the hostess at a Chinese restaurant where Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis get their magic fortune cookies. The portrayal is so cringingly offensive — and really heartbreaking, considering Chao's amazing performance 10 years earlier in The Joy Luck Club, which is all about the Chinese immigrant experience and finding pride in one's heritage in a white society. It goes to show how tragically limited the options are in Hollywood for Asian actors."


7. In The Office, when Michael Scott's jokes frequently went too far for his lovable-but-ignorant persona:


"I LOVE The Office, but watching Michael Scott doing a very poor impression of an Asian man named 'Ping' makes me uncomfortable."


8. In Sixteen Candles, when the "leering" character Long Duk Dong appeared to the sound of a gong:

Universal Pictures

"The entire film is really gross and problematic, but his character really stood out for being such a mean-spirited stereotype in a 'feel good' film — a leering virgin who speaks in broken English and is comically unattractive. What the fuck?"


9. In The Aristocats, when they sing, "Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young/Fortune cookies always wrong."


10. And Lady and the Tramp's offensive caricatures in the Siamese cats song.


11. In Arrow, when characters fit into the "all Asian people know kung fu" trope.

The CW

"It's not that they're portrayed offensively, it's that they all reinforce stereotypes — like they are all masters of martial arts and depicted as mysterious and otherworldly."


12. In Austin Powers, when two women were portrayed as highly sexualized Japanese stereotypes:

New Line Cinema

"The twins from the third Austin Powers. That scene turned me off the whole franchise — seeing another giggly, overly sexualized Japanese schoolgirl with a HiLaRiOuSlY misunderstood name was tired when that movie was released."


13. In How I Met Your Mother, when Asian names were made fun of:


"The 'Cook Pu' episode makes fun of Asian names, and the portrayal of Cook as someone who is weak-willed perpetuates stereotypes."


14. In Harry Potter, when Cho Chang's name was made up of Korean and Chinese surnames:

Warner Bros.

"Don't even get me started on Cho's name. Also (this one isn't negative, but...), she is in Ravenclaw (since 'all Asians are smart'), her Yule ball dress, and her portrayal in general. I've also read an article how the fact that Cho was the 'fake' love interest of Harry, as opposed to Ginny, perpetuates the stereotype that Asian women can't be the white male character's true love interest."


15. Finally, in Breakfast at Tiffany's, when Mickey Rooney, a white man, played a racist caricature:

Paramount Pictures

"The worst thing I've ever seen is Mickey Rooney playing Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It is so, so bad."


Is there a TV show or movie that we didn't include that you think is harmful? Let us know in the comments.

Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

TV and Movies

Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

Newsletter signup form