This clip comes from a 1965 episode of Get Smart titled “Diplomat’s Daughter.” In it, Agent Maxwell Smart meets the villain The Claw, who is supposed to be Chinese. The Claw is played by white actor Leonard Strong, who was known for playing Asian roles. This clip is demonstrative of early television depictions of Asian people and cultures, with stereotypical and exaggerated accent, clothing, and behavior, and white actors in “yellow face.” The main source of humor in this clip is drawn from the stereotypical accent, as The Claw does not correctly pronounce his own name in English. Smart picks up on this, and refers to The Claw as “Mr. Craw” throughout the entirety of the clip. The clip also demonstrates Orientalist-like notions regarding the savagery of the East, with its portrayal of “Chinese bamboo stalks under the fingernails torture.”
Why do you think a white actor is playing a Chinese character in this clip? Do you see any problem with this?
Do you think the clip is funny? Why or why not? What criticism can you offer of the way in which the Chinese character is portrayed? Do you think this type of depiction is harmful in any way?
Do you think that current representations of Asian people and cultures on television are better than this? Why or why not?