Lucy_Liu_charlies_angelsBadass Femmes is a bi-weekly column written by So from So’s Reel Thoughts about all the Badass Females in pop culture that shaped her life.

As an asian girl growing up in the early 2000’s, I was fortunate enough to see the start of Asian American culture represented in popular media; naturally, I gravitated towards women like Lucy Liu and Margaret Cho. Since I didn’t discover Cho till much later, Liu was the first Asian woman that caught my attention on screen as Alex Munday in McG’s Charlie’s Angels. As an iconic group of female spies, Charlie’s Angels were monumental figures within pop culture and it was radical to see a Chinese American woman take over a predominately white role. Alex’s character defies all standards and expectations, mildly rooted in stereotypes but ultimately pioneering the face of a growing Asian American community that was famished to see representation.

I couldn’t have been more than 11 years old at the time, so discovering that the latest blockbuster not only starred three female leads but also an Asian woman was a watershed moment; and as Alex, Liu was unlike any character I had witnessed in a mainstream action film. I could feel my perspective widen when Alex was first introduced, soaring through the sky to save someone and then taking off her helmet to show off gorgeous, luscious black locks in gratuitous slo-mo glory. Never had I wanted to learn how to elegantly unwrap my hair so desperately before.

Next to fire-ball Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and the spunky Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Liu’s Alex was without a doubt, the brains of the outfit. She was a skilled equestrian, an astronaut, versed in fencing and utterly drop dead gorgeous. It was endearing to see an Asian character on screen that was radically diverse, possessing traits which broke through stereotypes and even boasting a gender-neutral name; she was far from the meek housewife that her culture had always pegged her out to be. If anything, Alex used Asian stereotypes in her missions to her advantage, taking on the Dragon Lady/China Doll persona only to break through them and literally dominate.

Lucy Liu as Alex was everything I needed and wanted to see in an Asian American woman in the limelight. She exuded a rare combination of commanding presence, acute intelligence, swift aerobatic skills and crackling humor so rarely seen in an Asian female let alone just a woman in pop culture at the time. In proximity to the film, I didn’t even mind being compared to Liu despite our disparate looks and cultural ethnicity because of what her character stood for. To this day, her character and Liu’s casting is a great example of how Asian American women don’t have to fit into any certain category or societal stereotype.

SYU

For more of So Yun Um, visit her So’s Reel Thoughts, plus her YouTubeFacebook & Twitter.