Slaying the Dragon (1988) + Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded (2011)

Slaying the Dragon
Director: Deborah Gee
Slaying the Dragon: Reloaded
Director: Elaine Kim
Seen on: 14.4.2021

“Plot”:
Slaying the Dragon looks at how stereotypes about Asians, especially Asian women, shaped their portrayal in Hollywood movies and vice versa. Trying to outline the major tropes, female and male actors are interviewed and films examined.
23 years later, Slaying the Dragon updates that documentary and looks at how films have – and have not – changed in the meantime.

Both documentaries are insightful, making clear statements about representation and how movies affect the world beyond the screen as well. They’re an excellent primer to recognize problematic characterizations and offer a succinct explanation of why they’re problematic.

The film poster of Slaying the Dragon Reloaded showing a drawn female figure holding a long reel of film that shows stills from various films, all with Asians.

I have to admit that I knew very few of the films that were the topic of Slaying the Dragon. I knew some by title, but I have practically seen none of them. I fared a little better with the movies referenced in Slaying the Dragon Reloaded (more of my period), but I have also gotten curious about a few of them that I haven’t seen yet.

In any case, not knowing the older movies meant I also didn’t know the actors that were interviewed, but I was rather intrigued that the film included both people who very clearly put their fingers on the problems, and others who were a lot more ambiguous and seemed to not want to see the problems.

A grainy still of Kelly Hu as Lady Deathstrike in X2.

It was also nice that a few young Asian-American women were included – simply students with no connections to the film business – who talked about their encounters with (white) men and their expectations, just in case you doubted that what the films show is somehow unrelated to the real world. It’s definitely not.

Unfortunately, I’m sure that if we made yet another Slaying the Dragon movie today, things wouldn’t have changed much. A bit of a depressing thought that should give us all lots to think about and make us demand that Hollywood (among others) do better.

A film still of better luck tomorrow.

Summarizing: very well done.

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