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Asian Airhead

Student #1: She's cute, but why is she staring into space?
Student #2: That is what you call a dumb beauty.
— Overheard conversation regarding Tohru Honda of Fruits Basket

A stereotype used in various media, mainly within the last few decades. More or less, the Asian equivalent of a Dumb Blonde. The idea is this: you have Alice, who is of some East Asian ethnic group or another, usually the princess of an affluent immigrant business (or crime) family. (many of the examples are rather specifically Chinese, with a distinctly Chinese last name) Alice is beautiful, photogenic, popular... but she's also vain and petty and dumber than a box of hair. Used as the de facto villain or the Alpha Bitch most of the time or if not as the dim witted sidekick for a major character, she is almost always contrasted by other characters who are demonstrably smarter, more capable, and less easily manipulated. Never the main character but sometimes a sympathetic one, Alice will at best be reduced to a running gag, and at worst portrayed as a villain.

The stereotype occurs in two types:

  1. Type One: "The Tipton", with the character from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody being the most prominent example. This is the combination of the Alpha Bitch with this stereotype: A pretty, popular, usually rich Asian girl fawned after by boys but presented as being vain and petty at the same time. Often played by Brenda Song.
  2. Type Two: "The Cutie", a more benign, less in-your-face version of this with the Alpha Bitch qualities largely or totally removed. This leaves only the looks, money and popularity, and the stupidity which is made more excessive. The character in this case is neither unattractive nor unpopular, nor is she socially inept, so to make her bad qualities obvious she is made functionally retarded, easily manipulated and largely incapable of handling herself without assistance (usually from a Caucasian male main character).

Note: male examples of this are tremendously rare. It is almost Always Female.

Compare Valley Girl. Often the preferred type of Asian girls of fictional White guys.

Frequently a side effect of Ability over Appearance and Type Casting. In many cases, the character was likely not intended to be Asian; however, they could come across an actress who plays the character perfectly, with the fact that she's Asian merely incidental. The aforementioned Brenda Song is a good example. On Suite Life, the character was an obvious Expy of Paris Hilton, and was originally supposed to be played by co-star Ashley Tisdale. However, Song was revealed to have a natural knack for playing the airhead, so she and Tisdale swapped roles.

Contrast with the usual "nerdy" portrayal of Asians in media, which this trope subverts, and Dragon Lady. Also contrast The Ojou, who generally tends to be smart and rich (and usually pleasant in personality.) Compare to Brainless Beauty (Type Twos), the Alpha Bitch and Rich Bitch (Type Ones).

Examples

    open/close all folders 

Type One

    Comics 
  • Ultimate Wasp from The Ultimates, re-imagined as a Chinese-American woman, came off like this sometimes. While she was a brilliant scientist, her life and relationship choices were often ill-advised... to put it charitably. Ultimates 3 saw her devolve into a superpowered high-school queen bitch, minus the high-school.
    • Although somewhere along the line everyone (or at least the artist) forgot she wasn't Caucasian, reversing her initial Race Lift without explanation.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • A borderline example is Jennifer Chen in the Spy High series by A.J. Butcher, who isn't too concerned with popularity (as her school is a training ground for professional spies) but is portrayed as vain and self-obsessed, more so than So Beautiful, It's a Curse Lori.
  • Taylor from the Gone series. Her name is generic, but the first thing that the main characters notice about her is that she is Asian. She is rich enough for her parents to have sent her to Coates Academy, an exclusive boarding school for problem kids. She doesn't play a big part in the first two books, and seems to be a generic, slightly annoying, and airheaded girl. In book 3, she often acts rude to the other characters, considers that her powers would make her an excellent thief, and schemes about how to win Sam's affection while he's fighting with Astrid. Penny, the new Dark Action Girl from Lies, could also count. She also has a generic first name with no surname, but she is specified as being Chinese. She also went to Coates, and is therefore from a wealthy family, plots to steal the Caine's affection from Diana, and seems to be cruel but not very smart.
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, resident Camp Halfblood-Alpha Bitch Drew plays this trope very straight. While not totally stupid, she's still a bitch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. A beautiful, rich, popular young girl... who just happens to be dense as a brick. It turns out that the role was not written for an Asian girl, as it's supposed to be a parody of Paris Hilton. In fact, Ashley Tisdale was originally going to play London with Brenda Song in the Maddie role, but they ended up being switched because the girls played the parts better. This is referenced in the alternate dimension episode, where the girls are their original intended roles.
  • On the show Salute Your Shorts, the de facto queen bitch of camp, was Dina Alexander. Played by Chinese-American actress Heidi Lucas, she was in effect a mirror image of London Tipton years before the latter character was created. Dim witted, easily manipulated, vain and yet also universally considered beautiful and popular by her peers. Also a Rich Bitch, she gets some minor development on a pity date with the hoggish Butt Monkey of the show. Subverted in that she's not a total Alpha Bitch and lacks prominently Asian features or even an Asian surname.
  • Anna Maria Perez De Tagle has this in her resume when she started. A list of her characters with this trope:
    • The show CAKE gives us Miracle, a young Filipino girl, gorgeous, glamorous, and of course stupid. Also the Rich Bitch.
    • Ashley Dewitt on Hannah Montana. Basically the same character, but much stupider, with a different name.
    • Her Camp Rock role. It's a miracle there haven't been mass protests at Disney yet.
  • Cheerleader Candy Cho from Shake It Up, although she is popular and ditzy, she beat Rocky out for the acadamic achievement award.
  • Sui Blake from One World.
  • Piper Bauman from Married... with Children, Kelly's rival in the competition for a Allente car spokesperson.

    Western Animation 
  • Trixie Tang from The Fairly OddParents. Trixie is universally considered to be beautiful in-universe (and by many fans), is wealthy and also wildly popular amongst the other characters, especially fawned after by boys. But she is also shown to be extremely vain, venal and insecure, needing constant re-assurance of her appearance, her catchphrase being "Tell me I'm pretty!" spoken in a pleading voice that sounds as if she's near tears. This is, in effect, nearly the textbook example of the stereotypenote .
    • She was shown to have depth at one point. Flanderization put a stop to that.
  • Savannah Shane from All Grown Up!, who is a Chinese-American Alpha Bitch and Angelica's rival.
  • By her own admission Cassandra of High School USA! though she was 100% Chinese. She's also about 300% vapid, self-important moron. Fortunately (for men) she's very attractive. Subverted when it was revealed that her parents were actually Americans who moved to China to pick up their old manufacturing jobs who then applied permanent skin coloring and plastic surgery on their daughter to make her appear to be Chinese.
  • American Dad! has a rare male variant with Vince Chung.

Type Two

    Anime and Manga 

    Comics 
  • Grunge, a Chinese-American California surfer/skater/slacker dude, was presented as an extremely rare male version of this at the beginning of Gen13. He tested well in school, however, thanks to his Photographic Memory.
  • While not stupid, Jubilee of the X-Men suffers dyscalculia, averting the "Asians as math geniuses" stereotype.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Claudia Kishi of The Baby-Sitters Club is crafty/artsy but has problems with grades. In The Movie, she has to go to summer school and is shown to be unable to remember the digestive system.

    Live-Action TV 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Hay Lin from W.I.T.C.H. is the archetypal Type Two. A beautiful young Chinese girl, petite and adorable, sweet natured, kind, popular... and stupid. So very stupid. She spends most of the series getting led around by the pigtails, mostly by her friend Cornelia. Ironically Hay Lin is about as far from Alpha Bitch or Rich Bitch as you can get, but Cornelia defines both. Funny that she has the power of AIR. She is seen being pretty smart in the comics — both creative, bookish smart and insightful when it comes to the people around her.
  • Amy Wong of Futurama fame. Basically the second-most archetypal example, particularly of Type Two. Literally every male character makes note of how good-looking she is, she's richer than God, and well-liked by everyone. She acts so ditzy that it's easy to forget that she was introduced as a graduate student in applied physics (and eventually gets her PhD.)
    Professor Farnsworth: I'm sure I don't need to explain that all dark matter in the universe is linked in the form of a single non-local meta-particle.
    Amy: Guhh! Stop patronizing us.
  • Tiffany, a member of the Fashion Club on Daria. She was by far the least offensive or hostile of the group, but that's more because she has absolutely no motivation or ability to form her own opinions. She's, of course, jaw dropping gorgeous, and popular amongst her male peers for obvious reasons. She has no actual characterization: she just agrees with whatever her white friends tell her to.
    • She was also the dumbest character of the Fashion Club; she, literally, agreed with whoever spoke last, lost her place on a piece of paper three sentences in, and just so you know, that isn't how fast she speaks, that's how fast she thinks.
  • Kuki Sanban (a.k.a. Numbuh 3) of Codename: Kids Next Door is effectively like a younger, prepubescent Hay Lin. An adorable, girly, kindhearted, rather prissy girl who is personified as being extremely scatterbrained. But she has a fair share of kick butt moments that even it out. That Other Wiki says the she is only acting stupid so she doesn't feel sad.
    • Of note is that she was voiced by Lauren Tom, the same actress who provides the voice for Amy Wong in Futurama. In fact, one of the only young, popular characters she voices that doesn't fit into this trope in some manner is Kahn "Connie" Souphanousinphone, Jr. from King of the Hill.
  • Ami of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is the girly, sweet, distinctly moe-moe half of a two-girl singing group. She's the fun, happy, friendly one who dresses and is a Japanese idol singer. She's supposed to be the "stupid one". (Note, however, that Yumi is also a Japanese idol singer.)
  • In American Dad!, Francine's unseen adoptive sister is said to be this.
    • Much to her parents' chagrin: "I mean can you believe it? An asian girl who can't do math?!"
  • Younghee Mandlebom a Korean student/classmate of Leonard Helperman from Teacher's Pet
  • Jasmine is Jake Long's Soul Sucking Date from Dragon Breath, Susan Long is Jake's mother, Haley is Jake's Sister, Sun Park is Jake's Home Ec. Teacher and Councilor Chang in American Dragon Jake Long.
  • Stacy Hirano, Candace's best friend, from Phineas and Ferb.
    • Kind of; Stacy does show a keen interest in things like fashion and romance, but she's often the Straight Man to Candace's neurotic mania. She gets easily distracted when trying to bust Phineas and Ferb, but that's mainly because she realizes there's no real point to doing so; given another task and she's closer to Earth than Candace. (Also of note: Stacy's mother is a doctor, and apparently she'll grow up to be the President of Uruguay.)
    (Stacy suggests Candace should focus her attention on where the inventions go)
    Candace: Stacy, you're a genius!
    Stacy: Thanks. Could you call my mother and tell her that?
    • She's at least ridiculously Book Dumb, since she thinks the pyramids are in France.
  • Code Lyoko: One-off background character Naomi Nguyen, though we aren't given any hints that she's Asian within the show (the last name is only present in show notes, and she doesn't look remotely Asian).
  • Lee Lee, one of Dee Dee's friends in Dexter's Laboratory. Though, to be fair, she just has the exact same personality as Dee Dee and all her other friends.
  • Male example: Texas from Motorcity. The creators say he's Filipino.

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