Representation of Asian Individuals in Film

August was the month when two of the most popular romance movies of the summer premiered. Both “Crazy Rich Asians” and “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” came out within days of each other and garnered audience praise. Not only do these movies deliver fresh and exciting plotlines to viewers while still holding true to some classic romance movie tropes, but both feature Asian prominent casts, something Hollywood lacks and something the masses couldn’t wait to see on the big screen.

On Aug. 15, “Crazy Rich Asians” premiered after a much-awaited anticipation. Based off of Kevin Kwan’s first novel of the same name, this international best-selling novel-turned-movie follows the life of young economic academic, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she is introduced to her boyfriend, Nicholas Young’s (Henry Golding) world of wealth, luxury and old family traditions. After being whisked away to Singapore for the wedding of Nick’s longtime friend, Rachel quickly discovers the complexity that is brought along with dating one of the most eligible bachelors in Singapore: dealing with families who refuse to approve of you and “friends” who want to ruin your happiness.

This movie shows not only the growth and progression of a romantic relationship, but it also shines a light on self-growth and acceptance. This is shown in Rachel’s character throughout the movie after she realizes that she is good enough for Nick, she just has to get past the harsh stereotypes that his family has against her. The relationship between a mother and her children is also a background plot line; the friend-like relationship that Rachel and her mother share juxtaposes the more traditional, but still loving, relationship that Nick and his mother hold.

This movie’s beautiful cinematography correlates perfectly with how the story choses to represent a real, adult relationship. Finding “your person” is something that many people wonder about; finding that person and dealing with the reality of losing them is something most do not even begin to consider. The colors and vibrant scenes in this movie parallel the colors and vibrancy of love and fighting for your person that this movie conveys with ease.

Then, on Aug. 17, the world was gifted with what I believe is becoming one of the most beloved teen romantic comedy films of our era. “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” follows the hopeless and helpless love live of protagonist Lara Jean (Lana Condor) during her junior year of high school. After her younger sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart), finds a box in Lara Jean’s closet filled with five love letters her sister has written to past crushes, she mails them out and Lara Jean’s life is subsequently turned upside down.

Throughout the movie we get to see Lara Jean’s character blossom into a young woman who instead of running away from her fears runs towards them. In doing so she gains a friend, a boyfriend and the ability to drive a car. The ultimate teenager trifecta.

This Netflix produced movie was an instant hit.t is based off of the book with the same name published in 2014 by author Jenny Han. The book had a dedicated following and made it to the New York Times Best Sellers List, along with being recognized with 11 other awards such as making it in the IRA Young Adults’ Choices 2015 Reading List, along with receiving a starred review in the 2014 School Library Journal. The success of this first book not only lead to the creation of a movie based off of it, but also two more books in the series; “P.S. I Still Love You” (published in 2015) and “Always and Forever, Lara Jean” (published in 2017).

This movie shows a truth in teenage romance; it enables the viewers to connect with the insecurity and vulnerability that Lara Jean experiences being young and in love for the first time. No matter what your age is and how many or how little times you’ve been in love, you are able to imagine yourself as Lara Jean, knowing exactly how she feels; falling in love is a tidal wave, the rises and the crashes never failing to exhilarate and terrify those experiencing love. The movie also places a strong emphasis on sister to sister relationships and the cliché, but never overdone, notion that family comes first, and family will always love you.

Both of these movies generated lots of public notoriety due to the fact that their casts were more diverse than what has come to be the norm for Hollywood. The star of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” Lana Condor is of Vietnamese descent, and “Crazy Rich Asians” was the first major Hollywood motion picture to feature an all Asian cast since the 1997 movie, “Joy Luck Club.” Social media erupted with praise for these movies and the representation that they are putting in mainstream and film media.

One of the many responses to this movie came from an Instagram caption that Chrissy Teigen posted on Aug. 26. Teigen, who is half Thai, often uses her social media presence to use her influence in pop culture to shed light on issues that she is passionate about. Teigen wrote “Luna, asides from being blown away by the general movie-going experience looked up at Constance Wu’s mother and yelled “yāy!” (“Grandma” in Thai) because she saw someone who looked like her yāy. Someone beautiful and aspirational. It was something that made my heart just…warm. You never know how much you miss being represented on screen until you actually see what it’s like to be represented.” It is evident that these movies not only found success because of their cherished plotlines but also because of what they represent when it comes to progress for the film and media world.

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