Meghan, Duchess of Sussex blasts ‘toxic Asian stereotypes’ in Austin Powers and Kill Bill

Duchess of Sussex’s Archetypes podcast returns (PA Wire)
Duchess of Sussex’s Archetypes podcast returns (PA Wire)

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex has blasted Hollywood for promoting toxic “Asian stereotypes” in Mike Myers’ Austin Powers and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

The Duchess criticised the “caricaturing” of women “as over sexualised or aggressive” in a new episode of her Archetypes podcast.

The series has been on a four-week break following the Queen’s death.

In a new episode exploring the ‘Dragon Lady’ stereotype with journalist Lisa Ling and comedian Margaret Cho, Meghan, 41 - a former actress in the legal drama Suits - called out the two decades old movies.

The 2002 Austin Powers in Goldmember film features Japanese women Fook Mi - portrayed by Diane Mizota - and Fook Yu, played by Carrie Ann Inaba.

The characters have been criticised for sexually tokenising Asian women, and at one stage Powers - a comedy spy portrayed continually on the hunt for sexual conquests - is seen with a list called “threesome with Japanese twins”.

Lucy Liu stars in Kill Bill (Getty Images)
Lucy Liu stars in Kill Bill (Getty Images)

Tarantino’s 2003 cult hit Kill Bill sees Lucy Liu star as the murderously violent Yakuza leader O-Ren Ishii.

The character was described by writer India Roby as a stereotypical Dragon Lady who “uses her sexuality as a powerful tool of manipulation, but often is emotionally and sexually cold and threatens masculinity”.

Meghan, who stepped back from duties with husband Prince Harry to move to California, began her podcast by talking about her experience of growing up in Los Angeles which was ‘full of culture” that she had a “real love” for.

The royal said she was not aware of the stigmas faced by women of Asian descent until many years later.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Kensington Palace, London (PA)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Kensington Palace, London (PA)

Brief clips from both blockbusters were played to illustrate Meghan’s point.

She said: “Movies like Austin Powers and Kill Bill presented these characters of Asian women as oftentimes over sexualized or aggressive.

“And it’s not just those two examples, there’s so many more.”

Quentin Tarantino was inspired by martial arts and samurai cinema films from the 1970s, along with the Japanese revenge film Lady Snowblood.

Expanding on the concept later, the duchess told Cho: “The Dragon Lady, the East Asian temptress whose mysterious foreign allure is scripted as both tantalising and deadly.

“This has seeped into a lot of our entertainment. But this toxic stereotyping of women of Asian descent, it doesn’t just end once the credits roll.”

In her introduction, Meghan spoke of visiting a Korean spa with her mother Doria Ragland as a teenager, adding: “It’s a very humbling experience for a girl going through puberty because you enter a room with women from ages nine to maybe 90, all walking around naked and waiting to get a body scrub on one of these tables that are all lined up in a row.

“All I wanted was a bathing suit. Once I was over that adolescent embarrassment, my mom and I, we would go upstairs we would sit in a room and we would have a steaming bowl of the most delicious noodles.”

Journalist Ling told Meghan that, when she was a broadcaster at Channel One, she was named hot reporter in the Rolling Stone’s Hot List, but faced racist abuse in the aftermath.

“Someone at my place of work cut out that article, drew slanted eyes over the eyes and wrote ‘yeah, right’ and then put it back in my mailbox,” she said.

Meghan, who accused an unnamed member of the royal family of racism in her interview with Oprah Winfrey, responded: “Oh my god.”

Ling added: “It was like every kernel of excitement that I possessed just withered away. It was so devastating that someone that I would see every day in my place of work, where we’re supposed to feel comfortable, just harboured those feelings about me and had the nerve to make it racial.”

Cover of Archetypes showing the Duchess of Sussex (PA)
Cover of Archetypes showing the Duchess of Sussex (PA)

Korean-American comic Cho spoke about enjoying life to the full, saying: “You have to really enjoy the time you have because it’s… it’s not very long, you know, it goes by very fast.”

Meghan replied: “Yeah… it’s so true.”

The pair also exchanged plaudits, with Meghan telling Cho she loved her new film, Fire Island.

Cho told the duchess: “We actually talked a lot about you on set. We were just admiring you, just so much.”

Meghan replied: “Oh, really? … I really appreciate that.”

She added: “Honestly, I’m thrilled. When I came downstairs, I was ‘I’m talking to Margaret Cho this morning’.”

She urged her podcast listeners to be their “best and true self”.

“Just be yourself no matter what any societal framework or archetype or loud voice coming from a small place tells you that you should be,” she said.

“Be yourself – your full complete, whole layered, sometimes weird, sometimes awesome, but always best and true self. Just be you. You’re so much greater than any archetype.”