Warrior Women

BOOKS:

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Warrior Women

Warrior Women: Gender, Race, and the Transnational Chinese Action Star
By: Lisa Funnell
SUNY Press, 2014

This book examines the impact of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule on the representation of warrior women in action films produced in Hong Kong and, increasingly, in cooperation with mainland China and Hollywood. Hong Kong cinema has offered space for the development of transnational Chinese screen identities that challenge the racial stereotypes historically associated with the Asian female body in the West. The ethnic/national differentiation of transnational Chinese female stars―such as Michelle Yeoh (Hong Kong Chinese), Gong Li (mainland Chinese), Lucy Liu (Chinese American), and Charlene Choi (Chinese Canadian)―is part of an ongoing negotiation of social, cultural, and geopolitical identities in the Chinese-speaking world.

AWARDS:

  • Winner, Emily Toth Award for Best Single Work in Women’s Studies, Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA)
  • Winner, Bronze Medal in Women’s Issues Category, Independent Publisher Book Awards
  • Finalist, ForeWord IndieFab Book of the Year Award in the Women’s Studies Category

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ARTICLES AND CHAPTERS:

Fighting for a Hong Kong/Chinese Female Identity: Michelle Yeoh, Body Performance, and Globalized Action Cinema
By: Lisa Funnell
Asian Popular Culture in Transition
Routledge, 2012, 171-185

This chapter explores the development of Michelle Yeoh’s star persona in the global film market from East Asian superstardom in the 1990s centered on “corporeal authenticity” to a maternal hero featured in Hollywood blockbusters in the 2000s. In recent years, Yeoh has come to embody a particular impression of Hong Kong identity that centers on her characterization as a transnational mediator facilitating connections between “the East” and “the West.” Cast in the role of maternal hero, Yeoh appears to subvert the politics of representation in Hollywood which have historically “feminized” and fetishized the Asian female body.

  • Keywords: Michelle Yeoh, warrior woman, corporeal authenticity, stunt work, maternal hero, transnational mediator

Assimilating Hong Kong Style for the Hollywood Action Woman
By: Lisa Funnell
Quarterly Review of Film and Video 28.1 (2011): 66-79

This paper explores how female action heroes emerging in the 2000s were modeled after the warrior women of “girls with guns,” a popular cycle of the Hong Kong gunplay film. Working in Hollywood, Hong Kong choreographers Yuen Woo Ping and Yuen Cheung-Yan helped transcribe and assimilate the body performances of Hong Kong warrior women into Hollywood generic versions. As a form of asiaphilia, Hollywood’s transnational appropriation of Hong Kong action takes place on the surface level through the deterritorialization of images. Although inspired by “girls with guns,” Hollywood action women are distinctly American and relate American/Western ideals of gender, race and heroism.

  • Keywords: Hollywood, action women, girls with guns, Hong Kong, Yuen Brothers, The Matrix, Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, cultural appropriation
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