China Doll
The submissive and expendable objects of beauty that western fiction portrays Asians as
Needs Examples Better Name Description Needs Help

(permanent link) added: 2012-03-06 11:38:22 sponsor: KingZeal (last reply: 2014-07-05 12:18:03)

Add Tag:
This is the Western portrayal of an Asian Proper Lady--similar to the Yamato Nadeshiko in that they're both traditionally demure and gentle Asian beauties--but the China Doll lacks the Yamato Nadeshiko's inner strength. The Yamato Nadeshiko ideal is all about what makes a "perfect" domestic partner or close companion. The China Doll is more disposable, and more breakable, like the porcelain doll she's named after. She is often used as one half of the Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow pair as the subdued East Asian female who can be cast aside. She is silent and submissive, and strictly there for exotic appeal, making her into more of an Extreme Doormat.

Her value lies more in her beauty and extreme purity than anything else, and someone who can be easily taken advantage of. Often paired with the Mighty Whitey as an exotic trophy or conquest, and not a person to be faithful to. In some cases, she overlaps with the Geisha or Asian Hooker Stereotype as an object of sexual pleasure and/or Distressed Damsel to be rescued from her own No Woman's Land society.

Despite the name, the stereotype isn't strictly Chinese. The trope name was coined in reference to Asian women of any nationality; as long as she's of Asian decent, probably born and raised in the Far East, she fits.

When she is Chinese, she's often dressed in a qipao, with optional Odango Hair.

Contrast the aggressive Dragon Lady. Compare the Geisha. Also contrast Silk Hiding Steel and Iron Lady.

Examples:

Film--Animated
  • At the beginning of Disney's Mulan, the title character is given a makeover to be presented to the town matchmaker. The women helping her sing about the ideal Chinese bride: a poised, obedient "perfect porcelain doll." It's not wonder that didn't work for her so she ran off and joined the army.

Film--Live Action
  • Knives Chau counts in Scott Pilgrim. Though Knives is an Action Girl, she otherwise fits the trope. Falls in love with white male? Check. White male casually discards her? Check. She remains loyal to the white male despite being ultimately powerless to influence his feelings? Check. He chooses a white Love Interest to replace her? Check. The two places where it differentiates is that he eventually puts a stop to it before she completely breaks, and the reason for his disinterest is stated to be her age, not her race. Unfortunate Implications still abound, though.
  • In Return To Paradise, Malaysian women take pride in sexually serving white American men because they are white and rich.
  • In LAX, a Filipina woman immigrates to America and he uses the trope's exact name to refer to her. Her personality is the subservient, demure stereotype the trope is named for.

Music
  • Ricky Nelson's song "Travelling Man" talks about all the women the narrator has around the world. His Eastern woman is one of his most patient. He specifically says:
    "And my China doll, down in old Hong Kong, waits for my return."

Theater
  • Madame Butterfly, where a white man marries a Japanese maiden, gets her pregnant and leaves. He ends up marrying an American woman because he had not considered himself bound by his Japanese marriage to a Japanese woman. When she finds out what he did she's so heartbroken she kills herself.
  • Miss Saigon, the remake of Madame Butterfly, which trades Japan for Vietnam, was protested for continuing the stereotypical portrayal.
  • David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly plays with this trope, in that the submissive woman the protagonist has a 20-year affair with is not at all the China Doll she pretends to be in fact, she's a man, which leads him to, too late, consider the racist/sexist implications of their relationship. Based on a True Story and the lead is inspired in-universe by the story of Madame Butterfly.
replies: 93

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy