Whether she appears onscreen or in the popular imagination, the Asian woman tends to fall into one of several predictable archetypes: the evil temptress, obliging mistress, loyal servant, fanatical tiger mom, ruthless overachiever. This facile parsing offers the convenience of manageable stereotypes and feigned knowledge. One of the pleasures of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has been the number of Asian and Asian-American women defying the stereotypes. Among those who have most captivated audiences this past week are Chloe Kim, the teen-age snowboarder from Southern California who won a gold medal in the half-pipe; Mirai Nagasu, the first American woman to execute a triple axel at the Olympics; and Nagasu’s teammate Maia Shibutani, who, performing in the ice-dance competition with her brother, Alex, also helped the Americans win the team bronze medal. (Half of Team U.S.A.’s figure skaters are Asian-American.) On the other side, so to speak, are the North Korean women, whose presence has been used to reinforce some of the old categories: the “army of beauties” cheerleaders and, especially, Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un, whose appearance eventually managed to incite pretty much every stereotype on record.

Kim Yo Jong seemed to take everyone by surprise when she flew into Seoul, last Friday, on her brother’s private jet, a pale young woman in nondescript black clothing, her hair unadorned, and what some called her “sphinx-like” face seemingly unvarnished, without makeup, but offering a shy half-smile. She stayed only three days and she didn’t do much, but with her overtures to the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in—a handshake, an invitation to meet with her brother in the North, a message in a guest book (“I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people’s hearts)—she presented as the classic demure, loyal, and non-threatening woman. Positive appraisals of her “charm offensive” were swift and emphatic. She easily upstaged Vice-President Mike Pence, who snubbed her, even skipping a dinner hosted by President Moon. In a development that surely infuriated the White House, the South Korean press started comparing the “Princess of Pyongyang” to Ivanka Trump—a humane, charismatic presence to soften her family’s image. That was, to say the least, a dubious stretch, but even in the American press Kim was called “a beguiling emissary” and a “self-aware pageant star”—the gold medallist in the international-diplomacy competition.

The image didn’t last long. Within forty-eight hours, Kim had turned from China Doll into Dragon Lady. The New York Post said that fawning over a sister of a dangerous despot and a daughter of the most secretive and destructive dynasty in the world was “perverse.” The BBC noted that Kim Jong Un “has a number of far more powerful weapons in his arsenal: his female envoys and he saved the best for last. His sister.” “Kim Yo Jong is a Twisted Sister,” read the title of an op-ed by Claudia Rosett, in the Wall Street JournalRosett wrote, “Ms. Kim, with her freckles and enigmatic smile, is a trained and trusted royal brainwasher for a family regime.”

Significantly, in our brief glimpses of Kim, we didn’t learn anything about her as a person. Everything we know, we knew before this week. She is thought to be thirty and to be married. She is the youngest of the three children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui. She and her brother attended school in Bern, Switzerland. She first appeared publicly in 2011, in Pyongyang, at the funeral of her father, who, according to a former Russian Ambassador to North Korea, had favored her over her “idle blockhead” brothers. As a deputy director of the Workers’ Party Propaganda and Agitation Department, Kim is in charge of crafting her brother’s image, but her most important role is as one of his most trusted advisers. A woman in a conservative, hierarchical, and patriarchal society, she is useful but poses no threat to her brother’s leadership. As Lim Jae-cheon, a historian at Korea University, in Seoul, put it, “She can’t be leader. She’s a female.” Upon her return, an official photograph was released showing her beaming as she took the arm of her brother.

If Kim Jong Un had intended to deploy his baby sister as a weapon, he was gambling that the world believes in the image of young, Asian women as incontrovertibly obliging. If the illusion of a peace offering is necessary to buy time until the hermit kingdom can upgrade its nuclear and missile capabilities, who better to deliver that message than a creature so universally unobjectionable? The same thinking seems to be behind the cheerleading squad, whose members are said to be chosen for their looks. The Olympics may be understood as a manufactured celebration of a nation’s prowess, built on its deepest-held beliefs and symbols. We would like to think that, by recognizing North Korea’s manipulations on display, we are immune to them.

But the Olympics are also a celebration of the superlative. The irony is that perhaps the most exciting athletic Olympic performance so far was that of another woman surnamed Kim. Chloe Kim, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Korean immigrants, won her gold medal with astonishing runs in the half-pipe, becoming the first woman to perform back-to-back 1080s (three complete spins) at the Olympics, which earned her the two highest scores of the women’s competition. (She had previously achieved a perfect score of a hundred.) Unlike the elder Kim, her life story has acquired a fable-like quality, familiar now to a global audience as one of a father’s loving devotion. Kim Jong Jin arrived in the United States in 1982 and studied to be an engineer, but he quit his job when his daughter was seven, in order to focus on her passion. She is fluent in Korean and French; she would like to attend Harvard and become a sports agent. Jong Jin called his daughter a rare dragon, the kind of talent that any parent would have sacrificed for to bring to fruition.

The Kim family’s story, in fact, has been widely held up as a riposte to the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration mood. Chloe has spoken about the pressures of growing up as a first-generation American, but she is now a new face of twenty-first-century American adolescence—tweeting, to the delight of her fans, in between runs, that she was “hangry” for ice cream. She shows that, in this country, at least, we might be moving beyond some of the old tropes. (The much-broadcasted stories of Mirai Nagasu’s friendship with her teammate Adam Rippon, another category-smasher, may be another sign.) For the time being, however, the cameras have doubled down on Chloe Kim, attempting to capture her every movement and expression. But she doesn’t seem to mind. She delivered her performance on her own terms, and it was masterly.