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"She appears outrageouslyAnd the Dragon Lady's laughing as you die"
You take her courageously
Until you're under her spell...
Terrible lightning flashes across the sky
When the Dragon Lady shows you how to fly
Terrible lightning flashes across the sky
—Blue Oyster Cult, "Dragon Lady"
Female variant of the Yellow Peril villain. The Dragon Lady is characterized by her overt sexual and physical aggression, untrustworthiness, and mysteriousness. Probably wears a Qipao or Kimono often with a dragon on it (even if she's not Chinese or Japanese), and knows martial arts. If she carries a weapon, it's usually a concealed stabbing or slashing weapon; folding metal fans are a perennial favorite. Is contractually obligated to have legs that would make Tina Turner jealous, to better pull off the dress.
The Dragon Lady overlaps heavily with The Vamp, the Femme Fatale, and The Baroness, but is set apart by her level of stereotypical Asianness. However, please note that just because a villainess is Asian (especially in non-Asian works) doesn't mean she's automatically a Dragon Lady. Nor is it the same thing for a woman of any background to simply be called "Dragon Lady" just because she's overbearing. This trope has a very specific look and feel.
Also sometimes overlaps with Daddy's Little Villain.
Anime and Manga
- Wang Liu Mei, the Chinese Girl from Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has what it takes to become one of these in the second season, since in the first one she's shown as an agent of Celestial Being who's more for direct action than others in the group. And then, it becomes more apparent when she picked up the Yandere Nena Trinity, then at least was able to keep her on the leash, then it starts getting more radical that she sided with Ribbons and the Innovators, and later on with Ribbons' seemingly rogue Innovator, Regene Regetta. However, she ends up ultimately being a Smug Snake when Nena eventually betrays and kills her.
- Lanhua in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, an odd example from an Asian work; she's Chinese and part of an Evil Is Sexy-based Quirky Miniboss Squad (along with a crossdressing vampire, a loli Idol Singer, and a Fashionably Evil lesbian couple).
- Saiyuki's Gyokumen Koushu is fair example of this type of villain. Always wears elegant Japanese silk kimonos and traditional headdress. Overly sexual, she is mistress to the Ox King Gyumaoh as well as occasionally sleeps around with the head scientist Nii Jenyii. She has little compassion for anyone but the Ox King and is often seen ordering her minions to kill off those who are even the tiniest of nuisances.
- Shinzen of Speed Grapher has this kind of vibe, with her domineering attitude and taste for revealing kimono in a modern setting.
- One of these shows up in Darker Than Black's Interquel OVA, with the added bonus of being a Gravity Master who takes down the seriously Badass hero without breaking a sweat.
- Boa Hancock, Pirate Empress of One Piece shares many traits with archetype, though she's somewhat of a newcomer when it comes to being a vamp.
- A far more Ax Crazy version is Liang Qi from Canaan.
- Subverted by Yuuko in XxxHolic. She's pretty sexual, dark, mysterious, wears fabulous Asian outfits, is all about hitsuzen, and styles her home as a Chinese opium parlor...but is a good guy.
- Subverted by Chang Wufei's late wife Meiran. She aspired to be powerful and respected, both in terms of her fighting ability and her intellect (often getting into heated debates with her husband.) She kicked ass, in order to protect her home. She wasn't particularly The Vamp, or a villainess, though. Wufei admired her strength, albeit somewhat grudgingly.
- Munchkin-Fu, the martial arts movie spinoff of the Munchkin card game series, actually has a card called "The Dragon Lady." She is level 20, the most powerful enemy in the game, criminal mastermind behind all the other monsters and thugs, and any male who fights her and loses takes a -5 fear-induced penalty if she happens to appear in any later battles.
- DC Comics loves this trope:
- The most famous DCU example is probably Lady Shiva, a morally-ambiguous martial artist whose life mostly revolves around being the best unarmed combatant in the world.
- Cassandra Cain, Lady Shiva's daughter and the third Batgirl, temporarily became a Dragon Lady during her Face Heel Turn.
- Cheshire, hired mercenary and general psychopath.
- Shado, a character best known for raping the Green Arrow.
- Shiv, the teenage granddaughter of a Japanese Golden Age supervillain. Her Asian heritage isn't particularly pronounced though, and some artists don't seem to realize she's Asian at all.
- The villainess Roulette isn't Asian, but is the sort of person who wishes she were. She does wear a qipao, has Chinese tattoos (including one of a dragon), wears chopsticks in her hair etc. When it came time for her to appear in an episode of Smallville, she was indeed played by an actress of Asian heritage. Lois even refers to her as a dragon lady! Her outfit she refers to as a 'bigger Red Scare than Cold War Russia.'
- Sometimes Blackhawk foe Miss Fear (who also appeared in the Guns Of The Dragon mini-series) fits this trope.
- Superboy faced an opponent called- wait for it- Lady Dragon, the leader of the Silicon Dragons, who seems to fit in this trope. Like Roulette, the untrustworthiness is somewhat reduced by her obsession with fair play, or as Lady Dragon calls it, "equal measure."
- The Robin foe Lynx. Her successor also pretends to be an over-the-top Dragon Lady villainess, but is in actuality an undercover cop from Hong Kong.
- In the Marvel Universe:
- Sasha Hammer, daughter of The Mandarin. She seduces Iron Man and has sex with him while he's driving a fast car. Then she tries to kill him.
- Ms. Locke, sidekick to the X-Men supervillain Arcade. She is pretty much called one to her face at one point, and takes it as a compliment.
- Orson Randall faces off against dozens of them in Immortal Iron Fist Annual #1.
- Tyger Tiger from the Wolverine comics.
- Jade Claw from Agents of Atlas.
- Lady Lotus from The Invaders.
- Spider-Ham, Marvel's Funny Animal Superhero, once faced a canine Dragon Lady. She was, of course, called "The Dragon Lassie".
- Miss Ylang-Ylang from Bob Morane. Asian, seductive, and the leader of her own criminal organization.
- The title character of Executive Assistant Iris.
- Lady Serpent, foe of the Golden Age hero the Black Terror.
- Shamelessly parodied as the "Lizard Lady" in The Trouble With Girls.
- The title character of Chaos! Comics' Jade is this.
- Archies Sonic the Hedgehog comics have the Iron Queen, though current writer Ian Flynn made her a Technomage and less a traditional spellcaster.
- One Piece: Parallel Works has the up-and-coming Shichibukai Shenhua Jiang. Not only does she run a brothel, she almost forces Daisuke into prostitution, murdered Enlai's father and kidnapped his sick little sister, and she is implied to be allied with The Triads and the Tongs. To add to that, her Wanted poster nickname is "Dragon Lady".
Films -- Animated
- The Siamese cats in Disney's Lady and the Tramp exhibit most of these stereotypes during their Villain Song and following Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
Films -- Live-Action
- General Fang, from the Jackie Chan version of Around the World In 80 Days.
- Hu Li, from Rush Hour 2.
- Myca in 'The Crow' played by Bai Ling. The boss villain's Asian half-sister, tattooed, sexually depraved, and has a thing about young girls' eyes.
- Miss East in the Wild Wild West film.
- Mai, The Dragon of Live Free or Die Hard.
- Madame Rose, the villainess/villain of the Thai film Tom Yum Goong, retitled The Protector in the US.
- Referenced in Gran Torino, where Clint Eastwood's racist war veteran demands that "dragon lady" (a neighbouring Hmong teenager who has befriended him) get him a beer.
- Many of the characters played by Anna May Wong, for example the title character in Daughter of the Dragon. This was a source of considerable annoyance to her, especially since she was lucky to even get those roles, because most went to white actresses in Yellowface makeup.
- The pirate lord Mistress Ching, based on the real-life pirate Ching Shih, in Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Cantana in Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li.
- At the end of the movie Bowfinger, Bobby Bowfinger(Steve Martin) and Jiff Ramsey(Eddie Murphy) star in a kung fu movie called "Fake Purse Ninjas" where Christine Baranski plays a Dragonlady type ordering a horde of ninjas to attack them.
- The Hong Kong action picture Legendary Assassin casts a Japanese woman in this role, and to better play up her ethnicity, gives her a katana as a weapon. Her ability to lead and kick ass is largely informed, however, as she spends most of the movie taunting the hero over the phone, threatens his captive Love Interest for two minutes at the end of the movie, then gets beaten in one hit by said love interest once the girl is set free.
- Lucy Liu frequently plays aggressive and domineering characters, but O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill is the only one that features her running around in a kimono while wielding a katana (thus fulfilling the overt Asianness of this trope).
- The 2005 comedy film Monarch Of The Moon plays this character to the hilt in the form of Dragonfly. She's an assassin, she speaks in stereotypical engrish, wears a skintight robe, utilizes bulletproof fans, and even has the word Dragon in her name. And like many dragonladies of the time period said film is meant to invoke, she's played a white actress (Kimberly Page).
- Joan Chen was typecast as the Dragon Lady in several 1980s-1990s films, prompting her to return home to China for a few years and try her hand at directing instead.
- Xifeng in Pirates XXX 2.
- Fah Lo Suee, the daughter of Fu Manchu.
- One of the main characters in The Periodic Table of Science Fiction is known as 'The Dragon Lady'.
- Miss Adrienne Wong-Heppworth, found in the chapter "Lutetium".
- Ancient Mai, one of the heads of the White Council from The Dresden Files, sometimes comes across this way (albeit without the overt sexuality - as her name might suggest, she's too old). In the TV series she's younger and hotter, but Harry suggests she could be an honest-to-God dragon in human guise.
- In Christopher Moore's book Lamb: The Gospel According To Jesus' Childhood Friend Biff, a character named Joy (short for Tiny Feet of the Divine Dance of Joyous Orgasm) fits this trope to a tee. She's actually a prostitute who just happens to be a total badass at the same time.
- Missee Lee, in the Swallows and Amazons sequel of the same name, is a subversion; she's a Cambridge academic who doesn't actually like being a pirate, and teaches the kids Latin when they're captured.
- Lung Tien Lien has the personality down pat. She also happens to be a literal dragon.
- Princess Koji, villainess of the short lived Tales of the Gold Monkey.
- The bizarre Saturday morning chimpanzee-acted parody of spy parody Get Smart, Lancelot Link Secret Chimp, featured the "Dragon Woman," a female Oriental spy (voiced by Joan Gerber), who was (as the Theme Song assured us) "lovely, but she's wicked all the same."
- This trope is arguably developed and perhaps averted in Lost. Sun, a Korean female, was initially portrayed as an innocent victim of her culture's patriarchy, despite (or because of) their wealth. Over time, it was revealed that she knew all about her father's criminal industrial complex, and eventually came to take it over. On the other hand, Sun does not fit the "dark outfit" stereotype, for the most part. In the end, she used her father's resources and contacts to get in touch with Charles Widmore to find a way back to the Island.
- The Blue Oyster Cult did a song about this trope, quoted at the top of the page.
- The Trope Namer is Lai Choi San (better known as the Dragon Lady) from Terry and the Pirates. According to Trina Robbin's "Tender Mercies: Women Who Kill", there was a real Lai Choi San who was a rather successful pirate active in the China seas in the 1920's and 1930's on whom Milton Caniff based his character.
- Interestingly, despite the relative ease of trying to apply this trope to pro-wrestling, this is one of a select few stereotypes that the WWE hasn't chewed up and spit out (and considering they were planning to do an Unfrozen Nazi angle at one point, that's surprising.) They came very close with Gail Kim. Although they never played up her Asian heritage (she's Korean-Canadian), she was promoted as a very dangerous and mysterious competitor. She also debuted during the peak of The Matrix's fame, so this all combined into what might be called a cyberpunk Dragon Lady.
- A Played for Laughs version appears in The Navy Lark with the recurring villain by the name of The Mistress.
- Sumuru, created by Sax Rohmer as a Distaff Counterpart for Fu Manchu.
- In the stage play of Get Smart the Wong Sisters. A dumb blonde character goes so far to say "What happened to the three dragon ladies?"
- Ada Wong of the Resident Evil series.
- Ming Xiao, leader of the Asian vampires in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines.
- Deus Ex has Maggie Chow, a Femme Fatale Chinese actress with a Qipao and a sword. Seeing as she's an actress, she might be embodying the trope on purpose.
- Deus Ex Human Revolution features Zhao Yun Run as the Dragon Lady of the game. Tong even refers to her as such.
- Mai Hem from Perfect Dark Zero.
- Ai Ling, a minor character in the early stages of Jade Empire, and the much more significant Silk Fox both could count.
- Rinrin, the boss of Asian Town in MadWorld. Considering the entire game is a satirical play on sex, violence and crude humor in video games, it comes off as less offensive and more humorous.
- In the pseudo-sequel Anarchy Reigns, Rinrin returns with her sisters Airin and Feirin.
- In the original Dead to Rights, Slate has to fight an entire massage parlor of dragon ladies
- MayDay from Aquanox 2 is playing the trope as straight as possible.
- Anna Williams has the dress, the legs, the vampiness, and the killer instinct native to the trope. On the flip side, she does not lord over a league of gangsters and is Irish.
- Litchi Faye-Ling from Blaz Blue. The resident Chinese Girl (though older), she's not really domineering, but is clearly a deadly fighter and carries just about every asian symbol you can think of. This includes a panda (shaped hairpiece), yin-yang symbol, sakura petals (both in her attacks), lotus flowers and an oriental dragon (in a victory pose). And to top it all off, what's her designated stage? ORIENT TOWN.
- Li Mei from Mortal Kombat has elements of this.
- Ace Attorney:
- While she's not as combative as other examples, Morgan Fey carries several traits, including a subtle iron fist on her daughter and a quite disturbing Death Glare. It's doesn't stay "subtle" for long though, since she's one of the two culprits of the case where you first meet her, and her daughter is pretty central to her motivation for committing the crime.
- Morgan's niece Mia occasionally seems like a benevolent version of this trope: She's frighteningly competent for someone who's dead, is a harsh if encouraging mistress to her old pupil Phoenix, and is quite attractive.
- Zhen Ji from Dynasty Warriors.
- Mavra Chan (marginally) qualifies in Terinu. Though she tends to wear stompy boots and an armoured corset rather than a kimono, she's certainly mysterious, sadistic, evil and perfectly willing to sell out the human race to make a fast buck. Unfortunately she's also the only human character in the main cast to show any ethnicity at all (the rest are white Australians).
- The Handmaid from Homestuck, who has a distinct Asian theme (despite being an alien from another universe) and is also the unwilling servant of an Eldritch Abomination whose purpose is to end universes.
- Silver Serpent, of the Whateley Universe, whose father Iron Dragon sent her to Whateley Academy to... find out stuff we haven't discovered yet. Except we know she's supposed to track down the Handmaid of the Tao, who's one of the protagonists.
- Parodied in a Looney Tunes short featuring Daffy Duck as a detective who is interrogating an Asian woman known as "The Dragon Lady." When the terminally genre-blind Daffy asks her why she is called that, she breathes fire on him. ("Is answer question?")
- Princess Azula of Avatar: The Last Airbender is a less ethnically offensive version of this trope. She has a lot in common with traditional Dragon Ladies, being a cruel, aggressive, manipulative daughter of the Fire Lord. But pretty much everyone in the series is a fantasy Asian or Inuit, so the stereotype is balanced by plenty of counter-examples. She's not so much a Dragon Lady as just an Evil Is Sexy villainess in a world where practically everyone happens to be Asian.
- On Jonny Quest, "Jezebel" Jade is an exceptionally rare Good variant, combined with mild Action Girl -- mysterious, sexy, aggressive, untrustworthy, vaguely Asiatic, and qipao-wearing in the episode "Terror Island."
- Max Steel has a female villain called Dragonelle.
- The eponymous gangster in the Spiral Zone episode "Lair of the Jade Scorpion".
- Lady Fang from the Centurions episode "Firecracker", who egnages in War for Fun and Profit.
- Real Life example: Empress Dowager Cixi. As The Other Wiki says, she started as a concubine, but exercised almost total control over the court under the nominal rule of her son the Tongzhi Emperor (1861-75) and her nephew the Guangxu Emperor (-1908), both of whom unsuccessfully attempted to rule in their own right. She was largely conservative during her rule and refused reform of the political system. Many historians considered her reign despotic, and attribute the fall of the Qing Dynasty, and therefore Imperial China, to Cixi's rule. Shortly after her death, the last emperor Pu Yi started his rule.
- One biography of hers is titled The Dragon Empress.
- Incidentally the Dragon, in Chinese culture, symbolizes the emperor in general, so the literal meaning of Dragon Lady is the Woman Emperor. (Emperor de facto, but not de jure like Wu Zetian.)
- She appears as a young vamp in Flashman and the Dragon
- She is also alluded to, although not by name, as the Ancestress in Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. She's notable there for (among other things) being the only one intelligent to see through Li Kao's fraudery.
- One biography of hers is titled The Dragon Empress.
- Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty, the only woman in Chinese history to become The Emperor. Not empress dowager, not nominal ruler, but emperor. Afterwards, she proceeded to kill off all her rivals, install for herself a male harem, and be an all around uberNazi her subjects (not too different from rulers before or after her).
- Then there was Zheng Yi Sao (Wife of Zheng), who started out as a prostitute, then ended up controlling the most powerful/only navy in China. She married a pirate, maneuvered herself into leadership after his death, and made his second in command her adopted son. She was so powerful the Empire ended up giving her and all her soldiers/sailors amnesty in return for retiring and destroying their navy. She married her adopted son and ran a brothel until her death. She was known by another name as well, Ching Shih, and is depicted in the third Pirates of the Caribbean as Mistress Ching.
- Was the actual nickname given to All Japan Pro Wrestling co-promoter Motoko Baba by the wrestlers who hated her and loved her husband, Shohei "Giant" Baba.