Asian stereotypes in the otherwise excellent Daredevil

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Note: This post contains very minor spoilers for Daredevil

Marvel’s new Netflix series Daredevil is one of my favorite things I’ve watched recently, and I wrote about how well the show explores themes of masculinity over on The A.V. Club. But this article by Takeo Rivera on The Nerds Of Color lays out some critiques of the series as well, namely its portrayal of Asian characters.

Titled “Black Mask, Yellow Peril: Anti-Asianism in Netflix’s Otherwise Brilliant Daredevil,” Rivera argues that the show overuses hackneyed Asian stereotypes without ever subverting or complicating them elsewhere. He also raises some great points about the ways in which the show casually devalues its Asian characters' lives and autonomy:

The villainous conspirators of Daredevil consist of a cabal of capitalists and criminals; besides Wilson Fisk, there is Fisk’s lieutenant Wesley, corporate accountant Leland Owsley, the Ranskahov brothers of the Russian mob, and then the two Asians, the yakuza Nobu (played by Peter Shinkoda) and the triad queen Gao (Wai Ching Ho). In the first episode, we are introduced to this crew of malevolent plutocrats atop the roof of a skyscraper, and both Nobu and Gao are stoic, inscrutable, and do not speak English, communicating primarily through disapproving scowls.

Obviously, both Nobu and Gao represent pretty long-standing Orientalist/Yellow Peril tropes and stereotypes. As my friend Miyoko Conley exclaimed to me over social media, Gao is “literally a Dragon Lady,” a ruthless science fictional Chinese lady with a propensity for vast threatening power. Gao’s Chinese drug workers, who voluntarily blinded themselves in service to her, reflect the longstanding orientalist notion that Asians, while competent, have no sense of independent thought and blindly (in this case, literally) follow authority, like a mindless horde!

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They are even zombielike in their affectation; in Episode 12 “The Ones We Leave Behind,” Murdock attempts to liberate the blind workers, but instead they swarm around him, extending their arms mindlessly towards him and groaning in classic zombie fashion, pretty much providing proof of scholar Eric Hamako’s thesis that the contemporary zombie trend reflects post-9/11 orientalist anxieties.

Read the full article on The Nerds Of Color.

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