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Pet Sins December 1999

Tomorrow Never Dies

First of all, did anyone else notice that James Bond killed two men of color within the first 5 minutes of this 1997 picture from United Artists? One was an Arab terrorist, the other a Japanese terrorist. Very early on, the dominance of white males over men of color is established. This opening scene sets the tone for Tomorrow Never Dies. For the rest of the movie, James Bond continues to beat up hordes of Oriental henchmen, and couples with an Oriental female.

Although Tomorrow Never Dies is touted as the most "feminist", "liberated" and "PC" James Bond film up to date, it still falls far short of gender/racial equality. An Asian man who watched the film in Asia pointed out that Michelle Yeoh's character makes all the mistakes. She accidentally sets off an alarm while snooping around a secure complex. Later she fights off a gang of Asian thugs only to be held at gunpoint by one thug and then rescued by James Bond.

James Bond and Wai Lin, Picture &copy1997 United Artists

As the movie progresses, Yeoh's character flirts with Bond, initially repeatedly teasing and ditching him only to develop an emotional attachment in the final scenes. At the end of the movie, James Bond saves her from drowning. So, despite being a "strong woman", the Asian woman still needs to be rescued by the white man. Her kung-fu fighting skill is served up as exotica to a target white audience.

The greatest betrayal is in the closing scene of the movie, where Michelle Yeoh's character gives in to the seduction of James Bond. This seems to imply no matter how accomplished and strong a woman is, her ultimate purpose is to be a man's sexual partner.

This reinforces previous examples that an Asian woman has little place in an American movie except as a white man's love interests.