“Why can’t you go find a nice Japanese girl like the rest of the white guys around here?” -Han, Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Much like the rest of the franchise, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift is known for being a pure action film, favoring aesthetic over plot. While Tokyo Drift notably has a more diverse cast than its predecessors, it notoriously objectifies Asian women, both in relation to the Asian male characters and the white male character.
Tokyo Drift is ripe with stereotyped roles, and unending tropes. Unsurprisingly, the female characters in this film are either objectified background roles, or – in the case of the main female character, Neela – solely used as a romantic interest to the main male characters. Women are used in films such as the Fast and the Furious series more as trophies and prizes to be won and lost, rather than as actual people.
Though directed by Taiwanese-American director Justin Lin, Tokyo Drift – like the rest of the films in the series – is very much an American film franchise. And, by including hypersexualized Asian women which serve as ‘decoration’, Tokyo Drift blatantly aims to cater to a white, heterosexual, male audience. This fetishization and objectification is made almost painfully apparent in one particular scene, in which Sung Kang’s character says to Lucas Black’s “Why can’t you go find a nice Japanese girl like the rest of the white guys around here?” This statement highlights how often white men fetishize Asian women, particularly when travelling to Asian countries.
However, this film not only exemplifies the over-sexualization of Asian women to appeal to a white male audience, but also demonstrates the asexuality of Asian men – particularly in relation to the sexuality that is allowed to be demonstrated by white men.
The film’s central romantic story centers around Sean (the white male lead), Neela (the female love interest) and Takashi (the Asian male lead). While the film begins with Neela and Takashi dating, the progression of the story sees Sean presenting himself as the obvious choice for Neela’s affections: or, the white hero of the film wins the girl from the evil Asian antagonist. Though the trope of the girl falling for the protagonist rather than the antagonist is common in Western media, Tokyo Drift‘s use of this is problematic, as it strips Takashi’s romantic and sexual viability while empowering Sean’s.
Although the sexism in Tokyo Drift isn’t entirely surprising, this film not only objectifies women as a whole, but falls in to the stereotyping of both male and female Asian roles. By fetishizing Asian women (especially by explicitly referring to it) and by stripping male Asian roles of their sexual viability in favor of a white alternative, Tokyo Drift perpetuates the stereotyping of Asian bodies.