What is Yellowface?


1. Refers to the practice in cinema or theatre of a non-Asian (typically white) actor/actress playing the role of an Asian character. More specifically, it refers to the use of makeup and prosthetics to give the actor a "more Asian" appearance; also, actors often affect a heavy accent and/or speak in poor English. Related to "blackface."

2. By extension, can mean the practice of taking on an ethnically stereotypical persona; metaphorically, an Asian actor may be "donning yellowface" merely by portraying an Asian character in an exaggerated and/or demeaning fashion.

1. In the infamous "Fu Manchu" series, Swedish actor Warner Oland, as well as actors Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, and Peter Sellers, donned "yellowface" to portray the villainous, fictional Chinese title character.

2. Although "Madame Butterfly" stories usually feature a woman of Asian heritage in the role of the Asian female lead, the Asian actress can arguably be accused of being in "yellowface" by portraying such a stereotypical and unflattering character.


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