Asian-American Representation Matters: Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching Are Only the Beginning

Recently, three remarkable and very popular movies have come out: Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching, all which feature Asian leads. These movies have become highly-acclaimed and well-loved, all garnering positive reviews and ratings. The three movies obviously are must-watches, but they mean something so much more to Asian-Americans: their positive, humanized representation in the media after a history of disparaging stereotypes.

Asian Americans have been mistreated by popular culture and media for decades, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and white-washing characters relentlessly. Asians are stereotyped as nerdy, anti-social, and unathletic; Asian women are seen as submissive and quiet and are sometimes over-fetishized, while Asian men are emasculated and seen as undesirable and unattractive. These are seen in popular movies from Breakfast in Tiffany’s to Pitch Perfect. The amount of blatant white-washing is almost uncountable; from Ghost in the Shell to The Great Wall to Doctor Strange, where roles that were meant for Asian actors were given to white people (one being Scarlett Johansonn, unsurprisingly), Asians are virtually invisible in the show business and subject to racial abuses.

Crazy Rich Asians is so important to change the perspective of Asians in the media. It is the first majority-Asian cast since Joy Luck Club, which was made 25 years ago. Crazy Rich Asians proves that Asians, despite popular belief, can do well in the box office: it is now the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.

After Crazy Rich Asians, many Asian Americans have taken to social media to express their gratitude and happiness for finally seeing people that look like them on the screen. Jeff Yang, an Asian journalist, tweeted “Why am I #ProudToBeAsian? I’m #ProudToBeAsian because I FINALLY feel like we’re being seen and heard.” He continued on to state how “all of my life, I’ve been told to hide my food, speak louder, hold my tongue, go back where I came from, break out of my box and now I literally DGAF what you have to say if you’re not coming with respect for me and my people.”

Another tweet by an Asian writer and director, Gary King, stated how it feels wonderful “to see [Henry Golding] on screen vs. what I grew up on (and was told by the media how they thought of me). Representation matters.” The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Henry Golding and contrasting photos of the negative, emasculated, racist portrayals of Asians in the media, such as Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, who was played by Michael Rooney wearing yellow-face and emphasized Asian stereotypes as a form of comedic relief.

Similarly, another tweet stated how “Representation matters. Not just for actors but for everyone who wants to see someone that looks like them in a big Hollywood movie. I hope this movie smashes records and shows young Asian Americans they can be the hero of their own story.”

There was even a viral thread made by Kimberly Yam, a journalist, who spoke about her moments of shame and realization growing up Asian in a world that “makes a mockery of our existence.” She explains how the people around her made her not want to be Asian anymore and how slowly she began to love her heritage and culture again; Crazy Rich Asians is a symbol of long-deserved victory.

Crazy Rich Asians is an incredible, but long-awaited development for Asian-Americans. Crazy Rich Asians was also followed by the popular Netflix film, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved, which features Lana Candor, a Korean American actress, as the female protagonist. This is another development in changing the way Asians are viewed in the mass media. Even Lana Candor, the actress herself, has expressed surprise about landing the role.

“I never thought I would be so lucky to be the lead of a romcom,” said Lana Condor in an interview. “Simply because I don’t get those opportunities, for probably many reasons, but one of would likely be because I’m Asian. So when I got the audition and it said they were looking for an Asian American girl to play the lead love interest in a romcom, I was shocked. Truly. I just had never gotten that before.”

She continues on to say how Asians are rarely considered for movie roles. “I have had experiences where they say open to all ethnicities, and then I get there and it’s a bunch of blonde, blue-eyed beautiful ladies. And then myself,” said Condor. “And then I have to ask, why am I here? If we’re all auditioning for the same role, it clearly looks like you [the production] already have a picture in your mind.”

The writer of To All the Boys, Jenny Han, has also expressed how the film was almost white-washed. “Early on, I had conversations with producers who were interested in optioning the book, but the interest faded when I told them Lara Jean had to be Asian,” Han said. “They didn’t understand why she had to be Asian when there was nothing explicitly in the story that required her to be. For me, it’s not a matter of why, she simply is. And in a more equitable world, I wouldn’t have to justify that.”

To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved might have been an enjoyable, refreshing rom-com expressing young love to most people. To Asian-Americans, it is another step toward the journey of being accurately represented in the media.

Arden Cho, a Korean-American actor, expressed the importance of Lara Jean as the female lead. She states that as a child,  “I loved every romcom movie but they always made me feel like you had to be white to be beautiful, to fall in love, to be the lead . . . all I knew was I looked different and I hated it  . . . Seeing Lara Jean as the lead of [her] stor[y] was so powerful, so necessary.”

What is so important about To All the Boys is that Covey’s love life is not affected by her ethnicity. There are no stereotypes about her being a nerdy, quiet, or submissive Asian girl. To All the Boys normalizes the fact that all races fall in love and can have a cute love story — Asians included.

Finally, the most recent movie in theaters is Searching, a movie that features John Cho as the male protagonist, a father who is searching for clues about his missing daughter. This movie is also changing the narrative around Asian-Americans by featuring an Asian-American as a lead instead of a white actor. The movie has a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and many people have expressed their happiness that an Korean-American actor takes a role that would traditionally be played by white men.

The golden age of Asian-Americans is dawning. No longer will we be invisible. This time, we will not be quiet.

-Audrey X.

My Happy Place

Every summer I spend early August rafting down the Fall River and riding quads near Idaho Falls, Idaho. For two weeks out of the entire year I get a chance to connect with nature and feel calm before the chaos of school starts again.

I love Mission Viejo in California, but I don’t get the same feeling when a bald eagle flies over the river to get to its nest, or when a crack of thunder interrupts the sunny sky, a bomb in disguise. Or just the feeling of recklessness as I’m hurtling through the brush along the roar of the river, gassing the four-wheeler as much as it will comply with my hunger for adventure. Or even just enjoying the river view and “setting out on the deck,” as my grandma would say, catching up with the locals whom are tougher than nails, relating a story of her pregnant daughter being flattened by a sick cow that had died and keeled over when she tried to nurse it.

Idaho puts me in a meditative state of mind and really opens my eyes. I love being able to set aside all the temporary worries in my mind and be in the moment with my family because when we get a chance to get all together, it’s too much fun to be anywhere else. However, the one thing that I learn every time I come here is I can be happy and content anywhere if I have the right mindset. Idaho is my happy place and I wouldn’t spend my summer vacation anywhere else.

-Megan A.

Fall!

It’s almost the first day of fall (September 22, specifically) and there’s no better way to kick off this wonderful season than giving you some tips to have the best time ever. Autumn 2018 is definitely going to be one for the books!

When I think of fall, football games, pumpkin patches and other outdoor activities come to mind:

-Show some school spirit and spend a Friday evening at your school’s football stands with your best buds to cheer on your home team! If you’re not a huge football fan, no worries. . .

-You can head on over to a pumpkin patch with your family or friends! Have a competition to see who can pick the biggest, oddest or most colorful pumpkin and definitely snap a few photos for social media.

-And if you’re into the spookiness fall has to offer, find some brave friends and walk through a haunted house or maze–if you dare.

Now, what’s fall without tasty treats?

-First of all, pumpkin spice lattes are now back in season and personally, I believe fall practically wouldn’t exist without these warm cups of goodness.

-Actually, pumpkin, cinnamon, and vanilla anything is ideal. Whether it be scones, muffins, pie or even pumpkin pie frozen yogurt, satisfy your sweet tooth craving and dig in!

-Or if you’re into baking, look up some fun DIY recipes to bake and share with your family. They’d appreciate your effort and thought–and they’d enjoy the deliciousness of fall flavor!

Lastly, I wouldn’t be writing for this blog if I didn’t have any book recommendations. Grab your fuzzy blanket, light a candle and get reading.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. A heartwarming novel about a young girl in seemingly miserable situation who crosses paths with the adorable Winn Dixie, a lovable dog who lights up her life.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Written by the “Queen of Mystery” herself, this novel keeps you on your toes until the last page. (As do many of her other books–check them out!! They make for a great nighttime read.)

The Fault in our Stars by John Green. An oldie but a goodie. Who doesn’t like to read a teenage romance novel every once in awhile? Green’s unique love plot dances in and out of humor, sorrow and everything in between.

Even if you’re bogged down with schoolwork, SATs or college applications, try giving yourself some personal time to relax and enjoy all autumn has to offer! I hope this post could give some inspiration to have some fun during the last few months of 2018!

-Jessica T.

William Stokoe: The Man Who Changed the World

William Stokoe is known throughout the ASL community as the “father of ASL linguistics”. Some might consider him a hero. He was the man who researches about the language and proved that sign language is an actual language. Even though many people doubted him and didn’t support him, he pushed through and ended changing the world with his success.

At the beginning of the research, he had little to no experience with Deaf people, their language, and the culture around them. Regardless, he began his research at Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf and hard of hearing. After observing the students for some time, Stokoe noticed that sign language contained the features of an actual language. Even though he claimed that sign language is an actual language, his associates completely disagreed with Stokoe’s idea. Despite the lack of support, he continued with his research. After years of careful studying and observation, Stokoe was able to contradict his colleagues’ ideas of sign language not being a language. He ended up writing a paper called Sign Language Structure. His paper ultimately changed the ideas of language not only logically but also scientifically.

Essentially, he gave life to a community that wasn’t that well known or appreciated. He shined a new light on the language and culture and because of that, ASL is no longer a joke. Even when he retired, later on, he continued to work in the SIgn Language area, lecturing students, writing novels, and editing papers.

The creation of sign language has completely changed the world and how it functions. If you turn on the news, sometimes in the corner, there’s someone signing so that deaf people can understand what’s going on. There are even videos on the internet of singers having people who sign at their concerts so that they can enjoy the show just like everyone else and won’t miss out. Nowadays there’s sign language almost everywhere, it’s absolutely incredible.

-Phoebe L.

Summer’s Over!

We can’t deny the fact any longer: school is fast approaching. Whether it’s elementary, middle, or high, it’s inevitably…SCHOOL. How these 6 letters can make our eyes widen in dismay or whoop in excitement (the latter not my case, but still), the answer to this can only mean one thing.

Summer…is over.

No longer can we awaken and look at the clock and tumble out of bed and yelp, “What? It’s 11:30? How can this be?” Or smirk when we see our backpacks not bulge with the weight of millions of textbooks and those mountains of homework that the teachers claim are, “Barely enough.”

It’s all gone the moment the 1st period bell rings. When your new teachers step into their classrooms, with the desks freshly scrubbed and gleaming under the fluorescent lights, the sound as every stands in unison to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in homeroom. It’s all so familiar to us, from the day when we first toddled to school on unstable legs and clutching onto Mom’s hand, to many years later, walking or biking to school with friends, laughing and chattering among ourselves. It’s all the same, in essence.

But for me, it’s a goodbye. A final farewell to the school that I have seen for the past 8 years. Graduating from the elementary school next door to emerging into the hectic, bustling life of middle school, I have loved it all the same. Now, as an 8th grader (I feel so old…), it’s my final year here. A year that I’m certain that will be filled with love for my teachers that have guided and supported me, brimming memories with friends, and jokes that I’ll be sure I never forget for the rest of my life.

I’ll miss my friends as we part ways, scattering with the winds to different high schools. Who knows, maybe we’ll still be the best of friends when we turn eighty-five, or maybe we’ll just never come back in contact again. Although it pains me to think about it, it’s the way life works. I bet high school will be an even more amazing and rewarding experience that middle school has been, no matter which one we attend. In the end, school isn’t something that I really groan over. I would be lying if I said I loved it with all my heart (just take a glance at my Geometry homework and you’ll understand), but I’d be lying also to say I’d never miss it at all.

Ah, school. Something that has followed us since years after we were born to this day. Every single moment in the classroom we have been endlessly learning, absorbing new knowledge, although it can be quite tedious (want to compare notes, anyone?). No matter what happens in the future, I wish to make a memorable last year here as an 8th grader, spending one final year surrounded by all those I love most.

Adios, summer!

-Katherine L.

The Joy of Summer

Summer is more than just a season to me. To me, it’s the anthem of teenage freedom, the epitome of happiness, the release of stress. Every year, summer gets better because I learn to enjoy it more. From the outrageous heat to the cooling ocean, from late nights out with friends to weekends with family, summer is the season I live for and thrive in.

The heat wraps its arms around me when I step outside and although I relentlessly complain about the warmth, I am ever so grateful for the sunshine. The bright light pours down on me, leaving my skin sunkissed and my hair lighter. The long days under the sun feel like an eternity of bliss. It’s tangible happiness that makes me both long for the coolness of fall and desire to soak up every ray. Finally, after twelve hours of light, the sun bids the world goodnight and paints an incomprehensibly beautiful sunset. The pink and orange mix with the blue and purple on Mother Nature’s canvas, leaving me in awe and wonder.

A true blessing of summer is the liberty of swimming in the ocean for hours. The waves of Laguna Beach save me from the scorching heat and free me from all my responsibilities. Shocking coldness sends chills up my body but once I jump in and plunge my head under the salty water, it’s as if everything is right in the world. The ocean is a huge basin of excitement that allows me to float on your back, dive under the waves or ride them to shore. It’s calming and exhilarating, addicting and tiring all at once.

The beauty of this season is the joy of being with my loved ones. There’s nothing better in the world than making last minute plans to ride the trolley and hit the beach with my best friends or drive down to McDonald’s late at night to grab ice cream with my family. Adventure is everywhere and summer enables me to share those adventures with anyone at almost any given time. The long days and late nights are memories I will never forget or trade for anything.

Happiness can never be stripped from me and my smile seems to be etched into my face. I am joyful, I am energetic, I am forever in love with summer. And I hold onto these feelings and memories throughout the school year, reminding me that it’s only a matter of time before summer 2019 begins and I get to experience summer all over again.

-Jessica T.

One Hundred Days

They told me high school would be a long four years, a time I would dedicate to navigating schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and a social life. A time when my stresses would only consist of getting the grades and the friends. That everything in my life had prepared me for this brand new stage.

When I was little, I used to dream of the days I would grow up into a teenager, go out with my friends, get a driver’s license, and even begin to drink coffee regularly. I couldn’t wait to join school clubs, meet more people, and bring a date to those formal dances everyone always talked about. Because this was the amazing life I had built up in my head all those years ago.

And I was told to hold on to it because it would all happen so quick. That I would soon miss the bottom lockers that no one wanted and the crowded hallways filled with people I’ve known since third grade. That I would learn to cherish it and make the most out of every second I had here.

But it wasn’t long before the time had escaped me.

Suddenly, they were telling me one hundred days. Only one hundred days until I was out of this building, out of this life, and moving on to a bigger, brighter future. Eight-year-old me, meeting my best friend for the first time on the top of the swirly slide at recess, could never have begun to imagine that my high school graduation and step into a completely life-altering environment was only one hundred days away.

Four years of trying to figure out who I was and what I liked, and I’m still not close to done. Now, I have to decide my future in one hundred days and counting. Impossible. But then again, I used to think being this age was impossible. I once believed I would always just be that girl waiting for that goal of becoming a semi-independent high school student, similar to how I can only envision myself being a slightly-more-independent college student.

Change happened fast and I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for that notice of one hundred days to completely turn my life around.

-Sabrina C.