You’re 5 years old: Your dream job is a princess but if that doesn’t work out, you’ll be an actress/singer instead. The world is yours and you don’t see yourself different from any of your friends. You love yourself and everyone else for who they are. Your biggest problem is deciding whether to colour in crayon or texter.
At 12: Still blasting Hannah Montana and the soundtrack of a very popular Disney Channel movie with a lead who looked kind of like you… But claimed for years she was Mexican/Hispanic… but you know for sure she’s half Asian hmm. You’re obsessed with The Twilight Saga and at lunch you and your friends role play but you can’t be Bella, or Alice, or Rosalie – you can be Leah (the Native American supporting character). Btw, bringing a home cooked lunch to school, especially if it involves rice is ‘different’, and not in a good way but your mama’s cooking is delicious so you let the haters hate. But the thought does creep in – sometimes you wish you were white.
At 15: Writing and telling stories is your favourite thing and you are still so in love with performing. You’re geared with dance, singing and acting training and experience. Sushi is now very cool and trendy. Your classmates make racist jokes because they ‘forget’ you’re a person of colour or because ‘you’re not like the others’. You audition for the lead of your school musical – that Disney one that you so dearly love that meant to display diversity. You lose out on the supporting lead to a stereotype white girl. You are an advocate for the most talented and therefore appropriate person doing the job… The lead cast is 100% white. Your favourite movies/TV shows consist of a Caucasian cast, if there was an Asian – they played a minor role, you don’t remember the character let alone the actor. When people hear you want to be involved in showbiz they give you a look (oooh, acting is tough, there’s not a lot of roles for…). You take a look at available jobs and they’re looking for white girls – blonde and blue eyes, brunette and big eyes etc. You want to be so proud of your cultural identity but still can’t help occasionally but imagine how convenient it would be to be white or at the very least, a natural blonde. You think they’re right. Maybe you’re not profitable as a lead. You think back to when there was an Asian lead character and besides London Tipton and Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels #badass, nothing really stands out. All the other roles seem to be martial arts, restaurant owner related or a friend to the lead.
You’re now 20: Up until this point, you became increasingly disappointed with Hollywood and their casting choices that made Asian actors second class, casting white actresses in roles that should’ve gone to equally talented Asian actors. You first watch this movie with your best friend. The final scene plays out and by this point you have both cried from laughter (Awkwafina & Ken Jeong are gold wow) and gotten emotional (the wedding oh my), you are now crying tears of joy with the perfect ending to a wholly marvellous movie. We exit the theatre and she says “That was amazing, I forgot they were Asian.” We have become so accustomed to white people telling stories on screen, many people in the industry saw a movie such as this one high-risk but if you can imagine, on a world population scale, being Asian is the majority so it’s astounding the last American made movie with an Asian cast was The Joy Luck Club (1993) – 25 YEARS AGO?!?? You get home and begin to cry again, you cannot believe you just witnessed a beautiful love story for mainstream viewing loaded with a crazy talented fully Asian cast with an obviously incredible production crew. You watch it for a second time but now with your family. Your parents say they could watch this film over and over again.
You are so proud to be Asian, worthy of being represented as intelligent and eloquent, as beautiful and elegant, as sexy and well-dressed, as relatable and multidimensional, and just as a human with a great story. You hope everyone sees this movie. You never want a young girl who looks like you or the cast of Crazy Rich Asians to doubt her dreams are achievable because of a dry spell of representation. You are so much more than your race and to have a movie that displays that but happens to show the cultural side of being Asian is so important. You are so proud.
This is the movie you needed more than you knew.
With love and light always, M ♥️