Asian representation has just reached its height. With the release of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” Hollywood has gained two realistic representations of Asian characters in film. “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” features a Korean-American female main character who is also one half of an interracial relationship at the forefront of the film. “Crazy Rich Asians” is complete with an all Asian cast and a female main character who is Chinese- American.
Both films are not only being credited with helping to forward Asian representation, but they are also being praised by critics for reviving the romantic comedy genre as well as giving realistic representations of what a healthy relationship should look like.
“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a long-awaited adaptation for fans of Jenny Han’s bestselling young adult novel of the same name. Not only did the movie stack up next to the book, but it created an amazing and enjoyable film for people who have not read the novel. The movie debuted on Netflix on Aug. 17 and is currently sitting at a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, gaining much praise from critics and fans worldwide. Not only is the overall plot amazing and realistic portrayal of a teenage relationship, but the overall aesthetic of the movie will please fans of the book by giving the audience the view of the world through Lara Jean’s perfectly pastel perspective and vintage style. The movie uses teen film stereotypes such as the common and overused love triangle to its advantage to create a groundbreaking film that is reviving not only young adult films but also romantic comedies.
On the other hand, “Crazy Rich Asians” presents a more adult romantic comedy with a strong cultural presence. The movie takes place in Singapore and showcases Constance Wu (“Fresh Off The Boat”) as Rachel, a Chinese-American woman who goes to meet the very traditional family of her boyfriend, played by Henry Golding (“A Simple Favor”). The movie has tons of moments that are adjoined to cultural situations, while still being realistic and playing off of Asian stereotypes. Not to mention the film is wildly hilarious and gorgeously cinematic. The setting of the film in Singapore perfectly complements the plot and adds to the emotion of the scenes, while also making viewing easy on the eyes. The movie has broken numerous box office records during its run, becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy from a major Hollywood studio since 2009. It is currently certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes with a 93% score.
Although it may seem that there have been good representations of Asians in media previously, the road before these two films was a bumpy one. Hollywood has had many issues casting realistic and diverse Asian characters in the past running into many issues, one of which being a phenomenon known as the “Asian hair streak”. The Asian hair steak is centered around particularly Asian women who are given a streak of brightly colored by producers who want to make them appear edgy or different. Characters such as Tina Cohen-Chang from “Glee”, Yukio from “Deadpool 2”, and even Go-Go Tomago from Disney’s “Big Hero 6” are all prime examples of the phenomenon. Producers of films that showcase female Asian characters constantly use this technique to make Asian women appear strong rather than making them prove their strength and capability through something other than their appearances. Another huge issue in Asian film is whitewashing. This topic has been brought up countless times before from other films, the most recent being Scarlett Johansson’s casting in the film “Ghost in the Shell”. The movie was adapted from a Manga series which featured a Japanese main character, which was an important part of the series for being adapted into a movie. The movie was called out for whitewashing before its release in 2017, but the controversy did not keep producers from doing Johansson’s makeup to get a more Asian look or photoshopping her body to Asian beauty standards.
Throughout all the struggles of the past, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Crazy Rich Asians” are momentous and groundbreaking portrayals of Asian characters in media. They have helped to forward the conversation of accurate and diverse representation of Asian backgrounds and culture and have paved the way for many future films and television series to do the same. These two movies are only a small stepping stone to what is hopefully the all-inclusive representation of diverse characters in the many films to come.
Make sure to go see both films in theaters now!
Watch the trailers here:
Grace Beilman // Staff Writer