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Yes, that's really Mickey Rooney under the buck teeth and Hirohito glasses.

Some people call it "yellowface," but I say "the practice of blackface employed on Asians," because it’s more evocative.

Yellowface is the practice in cinema, theatre and television where East Asian characters are portrayed by actors of other races while wearing make-up to give them the appearance of an East Asian person, often including epicanthic folds (the skin fold in the inner corner of the eye, a common East Asian feature). In more racist applications, the make-up is stylized with various stereotypical traits.

Sometimes it is used simply out of a reluctance to cast genuine Asian actors. A prominent example was Anna May Wong being passed over for the lead female role of O-Lan in the 1937 film version of The Good Earth in favour of white actress Luise Rainer. Miss Wong was told she "was not beautiful enough". The excuse given was that The Hays Code would have prohibited the film from showing Wong kissing her leading man as "miscegenation", because he was the white actor Paul Muni, despite their both playing Chinese characters.note 

Yellowface has often been used simply to facilitate comically insulting representations of East Asians, though, unlike blackface with Minstrel Shows, it has never been associated with a particular artistic tradition. It also never gained the same stigma associated with blackface, and still remains far more acceptable in Western media, as demonstrated, for example, by its use in the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, though this is starting to change as it becomes less and less acceptable.

See also Blackface and Brownface. Interchangeable Asian Cultures is a related trope in which works play fast and loose with Asian cultures and ethnicities.

Should, under no circumstances, be confused with Yellow Face from Battle for Dream Island or the long-running cartoon with a literally yellow-skinned family.

Tropes associated with Yellowface:

  • Ability over Appearance: A common justification used by filmmakers to cast famous non-Asian actors as Asian characters.
  • But Not Too Foreign / Fake Mixed Race: Sometimes, the writers will make an Asian character half white so that a white or mixed-race actor can be cast.
  • Fake Nationality: Yellowface is a subtrope of Fake Nationality in which the actor uses make-up to appear East Asian.
  • Modern Minstrelsy: Particularly stereotypical uses of yellowface were almost always performed with the intention of mocking the character.
  • Older Than They Think: The tradition of yellowface dates at least to the 18th century in theatre, and appeared in cinema from the earliest days of silent film.
  • Race Lift: Changing an Asian character into a white one. This could be considered the modern-day alternative to yellowface as both practices come from a reluctance to cast Asian actors.
  • Values Dissonance: Yellowface was once considered completely routine, but nowadays is somewhat less so.

Works in which yellowface appears:

    open/close all folders 

    Conventional examples 
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo stars Gary Cooper as the title character who travels to China had no actual Asian actors in the cast.
  • Anna and the King of Siam features white actor Rex Harrison as Siamese (Thai) King Mongkut.
    • The King and I: Russian-American Yul Brynner plays the King of Siam. He also popularized the role on Broadway, to the point that his iconic appearance has become strongly associated with the role.
  • Most of the Chinese villains (especially the prominent ones) in Battle Beneath the Earth are played by Caucasian actors.
  • Due to the times, 1933's The Bitter Tea of General Yen has this. It's nice to point out that General Yen isn't a caricature, but is actually played as a fully realized person.
  • Blood and Black Lace: Claude Dantes, a blue-eyed white woman, wears a Romulan-esque haircut and a ton of eyeliner to play the supposedly Chinese Tao-li. Apart from her name, you would be forgiven for not even realizing that she's supposed to be Asian.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's: Mickey Rooney's role as the buck-toothed stereotype-Japanese Mr. Yunioshi is notorious. See trope photo.
  • Broken Blossoms: The depiction of Chen Huan the Chinese missionary was played by Richard Barthelmess, a white actor, though the portrayal is positive, especially for the time. Barthelmess actually took the time to learn some appropriate body language and mannerisms, and the opening scene where he receives counsel from the superior at his monastery is beautifully done.
  • Charlie Chan: In nearly all film adaptions of the novels, the Chinese-American detective is played by a white actor in yellowface. Probably the most famous was Warner Oland, who, despite being Swedish, enjoyed a long career playing Asian roles, appearing as Charlie Chan in 16 films, Fu Manchu in four films, as well as other Chinese characters in films like Old San Francisco and Shanghai Express. In a bit of a Zig Zag, Oland did not use makeup to change his appearance for Asian roles, believing his natural features sufficiently passed for Asian (Oland claimed some Mongolian ancestry on his Russian mother’s side). To the series' credit, the actors, such as Keye Luke as Number One Son, playing his family were usually Asians themselves.
  • Cloud Atlas both plays the trope straight and inverts it: the story consists of six segments in different time periods, with actors playing multiple roles implied to be reincarnations of each other. One of the segments takes place in 22nd-century "Neo-Seoul", in which various non-Asian actors play Koreans (most prominently Jim Sturgess, James D'Arcy and Hugo Weaving, who are white). Inverted by Doona Bae (Korean) and Xun Zhou (Chinese) appearing as different nationalities in other segments.
  • Notorious bomb The Conqueror went whole hog with the yellowface, with John Wayne, yes, John Wayne, wearing unconvincing makeup and a silly Fu Manchu mustache to play the Mongolian warlord and conqueror Genghis Khan.
  • David Carradine plays a comically yellowfaced Poon Dong in Crank: High Voltage. The character seems to be intentionally offensive.
  • The titular character of Dr. No is half-German and half-Chinese. He is played by the white Jewish actor Joseph Wiseman. In fact, in this movie, every Asian character with a substantial role is played by a white actor in yellowface. Unfortunately, this makes it blatantly obvious from the moment we see her that Miss Taro is The Mole.
  • Dragon Seed: Katharine Hepburn and Agnes Moorehead portrayed Chinese characters in this 1944 film.
  • 55 Days at Peking: Practically every Chinese character with any lines in this 1963 film is played by a white actor. The rare exception is Teresa, who's half Chinese and half American and was played by Lynne Sue Moon, an Anglo-Chinese actress; and Colonel Shiba of the Japanese delegation was played by Juzo Itami. A large number of East Asian extras were hired, of course, to provide the mooks for the white heroes to mow down.
  • The 1961 film adaptation of Flower Drum Song impressively featured a mostly Asian cast (though not all of them were Chinese-American). The exception was Juanita Hall, an African-American, as Madame Liang. The role was intended for Anna May Wong (mentioned above) but she died before production began. The original stage production had a white actor as Sammy Fong, but the film replaced him with Jack Soo.
  • Pretty much every version of Fu Manchu has been played by a white guy.
  • In the biopic Genghis Khan, the Chinese characters are played by white actors in yellowface, including a painfully bad performance from James Mason as a Chinese court minister. The actors playing Mongols, however, are white actors with their appearance unaltered.
  • Ghost in the Shell (2017) (which was already facing accusations of Whitewashing) came under fire after it came out that the studio was experimenting with digital effects designed to make white actors look more Asian.
  • The Golden Child features Charlotte Lewis as an East Asian character, though her character is heroic. Other Asian characters are played by Victor Wong, Shakti Chen, etc.
  • The Good Earth: A 1937 film adaptation of Pearl Buck's bestselling novel. A story set in China, with all the characters Chinese, but the leading roles were all given to white actors. The only role offered to an East Asian actress, Anna May Wong, was as the villain, but she turned it down, saying, "You're asking me — with Chinese blood — to do the only unsympathetic role in the picture featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters."
  • The shockfest Hanger had a Asian character with Down Syndrome portrayed by a Caucasian man in yellowface.
  • The Hatchet Man: A 1932 drama about Wong Low Get (played by Edward G. Robinson, a Romanian Jew), a "hatchet man" working for a tong. All the main characters are Asian but they are all played by white actors including Loretta Young, with a few Asian actors in minor roles. Because there was at least an attempt at cultural authenticity and the performances were not meant to be comical, the film can be seen as Fair for Its Day.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry has Rob Schneider playing a vaguely East Asian minister. For his performance, Schneider donned makeup to make himself look distinctly Asian, complete with a bigger, wider nose, slanted eyelids and a darker skin color. Some have attempted to excuse this because his maternal grandmother was Filipino, but not only is that not the ethnicity he's mocking, it didn't protect him from criticism of the performance by critics of all ethnicities.
  • The Inn of the Sixth Happiness: The main character's Chinese love interest is made half-European so he could be played by a white actor. (This was not the only change between book and film. The title was changed from The Small Woman— among other reasons, because the title role went to 5'8" Ingrid Bergman.)
  • Kickboxer: Thai Muay Thai champion Tong Po was played by Mohamed Qissi (credited as Michel Qissi), a martial artist and actor of full North African descent (from Morocco) who moved to Belgium.
  • In The King of Fighters live-action film, Japanese protagonist Kyo Kusanagi is played by Caucasian Sean Faris, despite the character having an Asian father, and being shown as an Asian child in a flashback scene.
  • The Bette Davis film The Letter featured an Asian blackmailer played by Gale Sondergaard. William Wyler would correct this in a later stage adaptation, casting Anna May Wong in the role.
  • Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing was produced in 1955 with William Holden as the leading man, and Jennifer Jones in yellowface as Dr. Han Suyin. Nowadays, the film is a case-study in the difficulty Hays Code Hollywood had in depicting interracial relationships.
  • The 1915 adaptation of Madame Butterfly has the white Canadian Mary Pickford playing the Japanese protagonist, Cio-Cio.
  • Master of the Flying Guillotine includes a cast of Hong Kong actors using makeup to portray a variety of martial artists from other nationalities, including Turkish and Indian fighters.
  • The Mongols: None of the actors playing Mongols, starting with Jack Palance as Ögedei Khan (son of Genghis Khan), was from Mongolia or of East Asian descent.
  • Murder by Death features Sidney Wang, a parody of Charlie Chan. Naturally, he's played in yellowface as well, this time by Peter Sellers.
  • Ted Raimi plays a Chinese spirit (complete with Asian Speekee Engrish) in My Name is Bruce.
  • Eddie Murphy dons yellowface in Norbit, playing the main character's adopted father. It's usually ranked among one of the films many, many criticisms.
  • One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing features several Chinese characters, none of whom are actually played by Chinese actors; Peter Ustinov plays the antagonist Hnup Wan, and Bernard Bresslaw plays his henchman Fan Choy.
  • Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins has the old Korean master Chiun played by Joel Grey in yellowface. Notably, the sheer amount of effort put into this earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup, although it lost the award to Mask.
  • 7 Faces of Dr. Lao: Lao is played by Tony Randall. Of course, as hinted by the title, Lao is a 7,000 year old wizard who can appear in whatever form he wants.
  • Shanghai Express features the completely white Warner Oland playing a half-white, half-Chinese character. The film itself lampshades this by having characters be confused on his ethnicity.
  • In the Short Circuit films, white actor Fisher Stevens has his face darkened to play stereotypical Indian Ben Jabituya.
  • In Cannon Films' 1987 Snow White film, white actress Diana Rigg plays the white and German Evil Queen, who disguises herself as a crazy, suspicious Japanese geisha and gives Snow White a poisonous comb. This has made some people angry not only due to being whitewashing, but also pointless and unrelated to the story.
  • The Son Daughter featured a majority of white actors playing Chinese-Americans in San Francisco.
  • The Teahouse of the August Moon: In the film adaptation, Marlon Brando plays Sakini, a native Okinawan working as an interpreter for the American occupiers. The Yellowface is at least lessened here by Brando's charismatic performance and the fact that Sakini is the smartest character in the story and not an embarrassing stereotype.note 
  • The ailent film Tell It to the Marines, starring Lon Chaney, Sr., has a white woman playing the local Asian hottie/source of trouble. It's really obvious in a scene with several extras playing the locals: the camera pans from ethnic guy to ethnic guy to ethnic this woman who stands out as obviously a Caucasian in makeup.
  • In The Terror of the Tongs (1961), the leader of the Red Dragon Tong is played by Christopher Lee, with Ewen Solo, Roger Delgado and Charles Lloyd-Pack as his main underlings, and Yvonne Monlaur as the hero's half-Chinese love interest. Burt Kwouk, in a tiny role as a diplomat, is the only actor of Asian descent with a speaking part.
  • Glenn in The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody. There were complaints, which only got louder when the creators and their supporters gave pretty weak excuses for why it wasn't so bad.
  • Ironically, Nancy Kwan in The World of Suzie Wong. She is Chinese, but she's also half-white. As she was playing a Hong Kong native, she was given make-up to look more Asian.
  • The Year of Living Dangerously: Linda Hunt portrayed male Chinese-Australian photographer Billy Kwan. Hunt earned quite a lot of praise for her fine performance and was awarded an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1984. She is the only person ever to have gained an Oscar for playing someone of the opposite gender.

Live-Action TV

  • Doctor Who offended (in many senses) frequently in the Classic series:
    • Early Doctor Who serials in Asian settings, such as "Marco Polo" and "The Abominable Snowmen" had guest casts consisting mostly of white actors in yellowface. Zienia Merton, who portrayed Ping-Cho in the former, was half Asian (Burmese, not Chinese), however.
    • Mavic Chen in "The Daleks' Master Plan" has the surname Chen and was given epicanthic folds, V-shaped eyebrows and darkened skin, although with the idea being that he would appear nonspecifically multiracial rather than Asian.
    • "The Wheel In Space" featured amongst its multinational space station crew a Chinese character, Chang, played by a white actor, Peter Laird, in yellowface, adopting an excruciatingly fake Asian Speekee Engrish accent.
    • Averted in "The Mind of Evil", a Jon Pertwee story that goes out of its way to use real Chinese actors for the Chinese characters, something that was seen as peculiar at the time. The director hated this trope, though more because it looked unrealistic than for any more politically correct reason.
    • "Planet of the Spiders" has two Tibetan-appearing Time Lords played by white actors in makeup, with a fairly excruciating Asian Speekee Engrish accent in one case. The portrayal of the character is fairly respectful, but it's still quite painful to watch nowadays.
    • According to the actor, the captain in "Planet of Evil" was supposed to look Chinese and had heavy latex prosthetics applied to create this effect. However, the makeup 'didn't go with [his] face', with the result that he doesn't even look like they were going for this, let alone look like an East Asian.
    • The serial "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" has John Bennett in yellowface playing a Chinese magician in a Yellow Peril plot. Though the yellowface has made networks reluctant to rerun the serial, especially in America, its story is still highly regarded amongst fans - it possesses some anti-racist content as well.
  • Madam Nagata from the Adam Adamant Lives! episode "More Deadly Than the Sword" was played by Mary Webster, a white Englishwoman. In a hilarious bit of irony, Nagata even had a line saying that the first step to becoming a geisha was to be Japanese.
  • The Australian sketch-comedy show Fast Forward did a short parody of Kung Fu (see below) with two actors engaging in this trope, but it's more famous now for the amount of overt Corpsing also on display.
  • Get Smart had the villain "The Craw", played by Leonard Strong, and Harry Hoo (Joey Forman), a Charlie Chan expy.
  • In the Gilligan's Island episode "So Sorry, My Island Now", Italian-American character actor Vito Scotti portrayed a Japanese sailor who still thinks it's World War II.
  • The How I Met Your Mother episode "Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra" featured Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Randor, Cobie Smulders, and Alyson Hannigan dressed up in Yellowface as an attempt at creating an Affectionate Parody of 70's kung-fu movies. The episode received massive backlash from the Asian-American community, leading to apologies from the show's creators. The fact that the show is a frequent target of allegations of Monochrome Casting probably didn't help matters.
  • Kung Fu (1972): In this television series, David Carradine was Kwai Chang Caine and the character was made half-white. While the character of Caine was a sympathetic one, Carradine's casting gained notoriety because they passed over Bruce Lee, who had aided in creating the show with the sole purpose of starring in it.
  • One series of Knightmare had a Chinese trader by the name of Ah Wok, complete with traditional costume and comedy accent, being played by the not-at-all-Asian Mark Knight.
  • Reilly, Ace of Spies: The Chinese police inspector that Reilly matches wits with in Port Arthur is played by David Suchet. Suchet is of South African and Lithuanian-Jewish descent.
  • In 1988, the pilot for a proposed Remo Williams TV series had the old Korean master Chiun played by Roddy McDowall in yellowface.
  • In a Saturday Night Live sketch, three technology gurus complain about the iPhone 5, before being confronted by three Chinese workers (all played by white actors, though without any noticeable visual distinction) who make the phones.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey: Princess Koji, the Marivellas's resident Dragon Lady, is played by the white Marta DuBois. It's hand waved by the character being half-Irish.
  • The Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible episode "Frenzy of Tongs", a parody of Yellow Peril movies like The Terror of the Tongs and the Fu Manchu series, the villain Hang Man Chan is played by Mark Gatiss.
  • Two episodes from the first season of Gilligan's Island featured Italian American actor Vito Scotti as a Japanese submarine pilot.
  • The New Avengers: The Chinese crime lord Soo Choy in "Trap", who wears traditional Chinese robes and a Mandarin cap and generally comes across as a poor man's Fu Manchu, is played by a Caucasian actor in obvious yellowface. In fact, it is not even obvious at first that he is supposed to be Chinese and not a white man who has adopted Oriental mannerisms. Made more obvious by all of his henchmen being played by Asian actors.
  • El Chapulín Colorado episodes "El campeón de Karate amanció de mal Karate" and "La casa del te de hierbabuena de la luna" both set in Japan, all actors are Mexicans with Yellow face. Same in Chespirito parody sketch of Madame Butterfly.
  • Australian comedian Chris Lilley did it twice; first as aspiring actor Ricky Wong in We Can Be Heroes: Finding The Australian of the Year, then as narcissistic Stage Mom Jen Okazaki in Angry Boys. This is par for the course for Lilley; he's notorious for making mockumentary miniseries where he portrays numerous characters of varying gender and ethnicity, leaving him with quite the polarizing reputation.


  • The music video for Princess of China, a single by Rihanna and Coldplay, has them in a Far East setting inspired by Chinese wuxia films, yet has Chris Martin (white) and Rihanna (Afro-Caribbean) playing the (East Asian) main characters in this "film". Rihanna wore a long black wig and makeup to make her eyes more almond shaped, but Chris Martin did not.


  • The sound-only equivalent of Yellowface was done, for laughs, in radio ensemble comedy show Round the Horne, where a recurring arch-enemy of Keneth Horne-Special Agent was Chou-En-Ginsberg, voiced in an exaggerated way by Kenneth Williams. Often, he would be acompanied by the lovely Lotus Blossom, played by Bill Pertwee. The portrayals were incredibly politically incorrect re their portrayals of things Chinese.


  • Miss Saigon: In the original West End (London) run of this musical, The Engineer was played by white actor Jonathan Pryce. The casting garnered controversy, but it didn't stop Pryce from winning a Tony Award for his performance. As pointed out by Pryce's defenders, the character is half European. Thuy was also played by a Caucasian performer in yellowface and in ways this is worse given that Thuy is the designated villain and in the original production with its original lyrics was considerably less sympathetic. Both of these roles are now generally played by Asian performers in English-speaking professional productions.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado is theoretically set in Japan and is really supposed to be performed by British actors in make-up. The real target is Britain, of course, with the setting chosen due to Japonism of the era (there was literally a mini Japanese village in Knightsbridge at the time). There were fears that visiting Japanese officials would be offended by the musical, but they enjoyed the performance and wryly commented on being "pleasingly disappointed" to find nothing offensive. Productions of the musical toured Japan with integrated casts and there was even a recent production that translated the lyrics into Japanese. The Mikado stands in an awkward position today because it really is meant to be performed in yellow face but that is far less appropriate today than it was in 1880s. Modern productions walk a fine line either eschewing make-up entirely or mixing exaggerated British features (huge mutton chops) with the make-up.

Web Original

  • Mortal Komedy: This Mortal Kombat parody series brings us a Liu Kang played by a pasty white guy putting on a horrible "ortiental" accent.
  • This great documentary deals with the yellowface theme within the social and historical context of race relations in the United States and relating it to other practices such as blackface and brownface. Ironically this documentary was created because of the racial controversy that accompanied the movie The Last Airbender, where technically yellowface was not performed.

Western Animation

  • Cyber Six has a kind of controversial episode with very stereotypical Japanese looking characters private eye Yashimoto and his sister, to the point that it did not aired in the US. They were voiced by non-Japanese actors with Japanese Ranguage accent in both the English and Spanish version. However in its defense the animation was in charge of a Japanese studio and considering that despite the stereotype Yashimoto is pretty badass many actual Japanese fans of the show see it as a case of Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales.
  • The Smurfs:
    • Episode "The Traveler" has a Chinese character reaching Europe and befriending the Smurfs in his quest to appease the spirit of a dragon. The character is very stereotypical and speaks in Asian Speekee Engrish, and is voice by a non-Chinese actor. However is a kindhearted, friendly and brave character.
    • Episodes "Papa's Big Snooze" and "Karate Clumsy" of the infamous ninth season happen in Feudal Japan with both a race of anthropomorphic Yellowface looking mice and actual human Japanese, same with "Imperial Panda-Monium" and "Fortune Cookie" in Imperial China.
  • Infamous "Last Horizons" episode of TaleSpin went out of circulation for its depiction of Panda bears as stereotypical Chinese Yellow Peril villains.
  • The Siamese cats in Disney's Lady and the Tramp and The Aristocats are furry versions of the Yellowface, with considerable controversy as Disney itself restrict access to Lady and the Tramp for small children for this reason. In the first case the Siamese cats are malicious, in the second case the character is benevolent.
  • The Blue Racer featured a literal Japanese beetle in the Mickey Rooney style in a number of episodes.

    In-universe examples 

In-universe examples (The character pretends to be Asian)

Comic Book

  • In The Shadow Hero, a "Chinese" gangster taken prisoner and dragged off to the cops by the hero turns out to be a white man in Yellowface. Complicated by the fact that the gangster who the impersonator was acting as a public front man for genuinely was Chinese.
  • The B.P.R.D. villain "Memnan Saa". His real name is Martin Gilfryd—he was a mid-19th-century English magician who studied under Tibetan monks and created a new identity as a generically Asian sorcerer. The artists noted that they modeled him after Christopher Lee's portrayal of Fu Manchu.
  • In The Golden Age of Comic Books, Batman once fought a Chinese villain named Sin Fang, who actually turned out to be a white man named Sheldon Lenox in disguise. As Cracked pointed out, there was really no reason for Lenox to pretend to be Asian other than to provide a surprise twist for the readers, making the whole story kind of crazy.
  • This was actually the main gimmick of a Golden Age hero called the Scarlet Seal (after his Calling Card). He was really a white police detective, but would put on yellow makeup and dress up like Fu Manchu, then sally forth into the night to battle organized crime. This act not only concealed his identity, he fooled everyone he met into thinking he really was Chinese, including actual Tong members he interacted with in some of his adventures. The latter of whom even eagerly invited him to join their organization, since he was obviously such a worthy brother.


  • You Only Live Twice has an in-universe example, with James Bond under cover disguised as a Japanese man, accomplished by dyeing his skin and hair and altering his body language.
  • In Vidocq, exotic dancer Préah (Spanish actress Inés Sastre) puts fake epicanthic folds over her eyes to look East Asian.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes disguising himself as a 19th century Chinese man complete with queue and giant opium pipe.
  • In The Three Stooges short "No Dough Boys", a wartime short, the stooges are dressed as Japanese soldiers for a photo shoot, and later stumble upon a hideout with Nazi spies and have to take on the identity of the Japanese spies the Nazis were expecting to meet with. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Magic in the Moonlight, stage magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) performs in yellowface as Wei Ling Soo (Crawford's character is loosely based on William Ellsworth Robinson/Chung Ling Soo.
  • The Bruce Lee biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story features Bruce and his girlfriend Linda going to see Breakfast at Tiffany's in a theater but leaving early when Linda realizes that Bruce is insulted by the Yunioshi character.
  • Done on purpose in Werewolf Women of the SS, one of the trailers attached to Grindhouse, which casts Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu.


  • In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Sixth Column, a white man gets plastic surgery to infiltrate the "PanAsian" occupiers. The novel is actually a version of John W. Campbell's All with the racism toned down. Heinlein considered Sixth Column an Old Shame that he wrote to garner the favor of the racist but influential Campbell.
  • In Barry Eisler's John Rain series, the title character is a half-white, half-Japanese American who uses plastic surgery and hair dye to look fully Asian.
  • In the Romance Novel Desire's Blossom, redheaded Caucasian heroine Letitia is captured by the Chinese as a little girl and made up to look Chinese by them. In the snarky words of reviewer Candy (who herself is Chinese):
    Chinese Big-Wig Dude, instead of turning her over to the authorities, is all "Hey! I have a GREAT idea! Let's totally adopt [Letitia], only not really, and not only that, let's totally treat her like shit AND make her appear Chinese." Which involves renaming her to Lee-Lee, dyeing her hair black, powdering her face (because Chinese people are PALER than you round-eyed types, yeah?) and - I shit you not - binding her breasts once she hits puberty so she looks more flat-chested. Because her bodacious bazooms are not nearly Chinese enough.
  • The first novel in the The Shadow pulps, The Living Shadow, has the main bad guy, a white racketeer, dress in yellowface to fence stolen diamonds.
  • Death from a Top Hat: One of the suspects is a stage magician named Donald MacNeil, who performs in yellowface as Ching Wong Fu. He's called Ching throughout the novel; he uses his stage name in ordinary life for publicity reasons, even when he's not wearing the makeup.
  • Played with in the novel Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang. June Hayward, who is white, steals an unpublished first draft from her frenemy Athena Liu after Athena's death in a freak accident, and passes it off as her own. To quash possible concerns about the book's authenticity, she publishes it as "Juniper Song", with an author photo that makes her appear ethnically ambiguous. While Song is her actual middle name (ostensibly she's using it as her penname to honor her mother) and she never outright claims to be Asian, June and her publishers are still very obviously attempting to mislead the casual reader into making some...incorrect assumptions...about her ethnicity. Which quickly turns out to be a really bad idea.

Live-Action Television

  • In one MADtv (1995) sketch, an Asian guy takes his white girlfriend home to meet his parents. His parents are white (he's adopted) but pretend to be Asian to help him fit in with the family. They then get angry at him for dating a white girl.
  • One episode of The Lucy Show had Lucy in a black wig and "slant eye" glasses, babbling in mock Japanese as she creates her usual mayhem trying to distract her boss Mr. Mooney from something. Only Lucille Ball could get away with such a hopelessly racist if over the top performance.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dee performs a comedy character named "Taiwan Tammy" who is an Asian woman while wearing eye makeup, a black wig and cartoonish buck teeth. The performance involves heavy use of Asian Speekee Engrish. Charlie calls it "incredibly racist."
  • In The Office (US) one of Michael Scott's characters is him in yellow face acting like a stereotypical Asian. He calls him "Ping" and most of his employees are offended by the character.
  • Community had an episode where Pierce managed to simultaneously do this AND Black Face AND Brown Face with handpuppets, one being apparently a black Mexican and the other his Asian wife. The Dean referred to it as "harmless racial humor" as he pushed Pierce quickly offstage.
  • Danger 5, an Affectionate Parody of secret agent TV shows. In "Kill-Men of the Rising Sun", all the Asian roles speaking roles are played by Australian actors in yellowface and speaking dubbed Japanese. This then becomes Leaning on the Fourth Wall as the Evil Plan involves Allied soldiers being brainwashed into becoming Japanese Super Soldiers, complete with yellowface and similarly dubbed voices.
  • The pilot episode of The Wild Wild West uses this along with a couple of other permutations of Fake Nationality. A Chinese character named Wing Fat (played by European-American actor Victor Buono in heavy makeup) works for the Mexican villain, Juan Manolo. Later, it is revealed that Wing Fat is Juan Manolo (or Wan Man Lo) and has been using a Mexican Decoy Leader. But as Manolo lies dying, it is revealed that he was wearing makeup in-universe and really was Mexican all along.
  • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example, but in this Key & Peele sketch parodying low budget '80s action movies, the opening credits list an actor with an extremely preppy-sounding Caucasian name playing a character named "Hop Suey" (although said character never appears in the scene).


  • There's a play by David Henry Hwang actually called Yellowface which deals with this trope: Hwang (a fictional character based on the author) accidentally casts a white actor in an Asian role in a play he's producing. Since Hwang himself is Chinese-American, this is particularly embarrassing, and he has the actor pretend to be Chinese to keep up appearances.

Video Game

  • In BioShock, gangster Frank Fontaine claims he spent some time disguised as a Chinese man. However, this doesn't appear onscreen.
  • In South Park: Phone Destroyer, the PVP battles are hosted by "Don King Butters", which is to say, Butters in a fez, with fake buck teeth, drawn-on glasses and offensive Chinese accent. This is because Cartman told him to take the role of boxing promoter Don King, but since Butters had no idea who that was, he thought it was a random Asian name.


  • In one Scandinavia and the World strip, Sweden makes fun of China by literally painting his face yellow, putting on a conical straw hat, squinting his eyes, and spouting racist clichés. He thinks it's okay because China is "almost white people and a superpower", but China gets very offended and throws vague threats at Sweden.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In one episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Shaggy pretends to be Chinese, complete with queue, squinty eyes, and buck teeth.
  • In The Simpsons Krusty does a stand up act in "The Last Temptation of Krust" that involves him wearing large fake buckteeth, squinting his eyes, and talking like a stereotypical Chinese person. The audience did not react well to it.
  • South Park:
    • In "The China Problem" Cartman and Butters 'infiltrate' a Chinese restaurant dressed up as stereotypical Asians in an attempt to uncover China's supposed plot to takeover America. Nobody is fooled by this.
    • In "City Sushi" it is revealed that Dr. Janus has Multiple Personality Disorder and one of his personalities is City Wok owner Tuong Lu Kim

    Real life examples 
  • Robert Fortune was a white Scottish man who disguised himself as a Chinese man to learn the secrets of Chinese tea. He explained his Scottish accent by claiming to be from a faraway province. As different regions of China have different accents and even different languages, this worked.
  • In 1703, a white Frenchman named George Psalmanazar pretended to be from Formosa (Taiwan) and wrote a book about his "homeland." He spoke gibberish, ate strange foods, and followed several made-up customs. But the craziest part is that he didn't even change his appearance, claiming that upper-class Formosans sleep underground.
  • An English servant named Mary Baker spent some time under the name Princess Caraboo and used her identity to be wined and dined by various dignitaries.
  • Inverted by Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American who got plastic surgery on his eyelids in the hope that he could pass for white and avoid anti-Japanese sentiment in World War II America.
  • WWE superstar Lord Tensai is a weird half-and-half example. Most older fans recognize him at Matthew Bloom, who wrestled for a while as Albert/A-Train, but after leaving, he became very popular in Japanese promotions. They continually bring this up, and his gimmick involves wearing Japanese garb, with Japanese (fake) kanji tattoos on his face and a few real ones on the back of his head, and even having a manager dressed all in black almost like a kuroko. He also speaks Japanese (although his pronunciation is with an American accent.) It's still a little hazy whether or not they're trying to pretend he's actually Japanese. Considering they have an actual Japanese wrestler in Yoshi Tatsu who's nowhere near as stereotypical, it's just strange.
    • They have since abandoned the gimmick, at least partially, due to it not getting over. He no longer has his manager/follower, no longer speaks Japanese. He now goes by just Tensai, he still have the face tattoos though, and they have paired him with Brodus Clay, and essentially making him a comedy character.
  • William Ellsworth Robinson aka Chung Ling Soo, a white American stage magician who pretended to be Chinese. He dressed in Chinese clothing and never spoke English in public. He was ripping off an authentically Chinese magician who was popular at the time. He wouldn't drop the facade until he was accidentally shot on stage during a magic trick.
  • Inverted, sort of, in Indiana in 1986. A high school student who was half Japanese, and spoke the language fluently, having gone to school there for three years, spoke Japanese dialogue as part of a skit in an Academic Bowl. The judges initially disqualified the team for what they assumed was a racial impersonation, with the student speaking gibberish.
  • Small-time performer Alexis Fishman got into hot water for her alternate Facebook page Arexis Fongman.
  • Depending on who you ask, a non-Asian person cosplaying as Japanese Anime character can be accused of this.


Video Example(s):


Krusty's Asian Impression

Krusty does an Asian impression on stage during his stand-up comedy. Obviously, this wasn't received well.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ModernMinstrelsy

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