A Hollywood Movement
Written by Margot Fitzsimmons
February 25, 2019
With the release of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, the importance of representation and the pressure that comes with it is more important than ever. According to USC, Asian characters made up only 4.8% of speaking characters in Hollywood films last year, despite being 5.7% of the US population. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, but in Hollywood, they’re often invisible or subject to old, tired stereotypes.
In 2018 a female Asian American lead shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet it is still a rarity in Hollywood. You can see this trend extend to the romantic comedy genre. Love is a concept that has obvious universal appeal, yet the most-funded rom coms have by and large focused primarily on the lives of white characters. The fact that “Crazy Rich Asians” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” feature a female Asian protagonist is phenomenal.
There was a lot of pressure around the film “Crazy Rich Asians” who hasn’t seen a major studio-funded, all-Asian cast in a contemporary film since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club”. When casting “Crazy Rich Asians” Kwan, the author of the book, said another producer previously showed interest but wanted to turn the book’s lead character, named Rachel Chu, into a white character. He refused. Many might have feared how well “Crazy Rich Asians” would do in the box office with an all Asian cast, but as it turned out the film was the top grossing rom com in the past ten years. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” became a “mega hit” on Netflix. Kwan said, “Why does Hollywood think we would want to see this movie with white people?’ They don’t need every film to be chock-full of the latest stars.”
Sandra Oh made history at the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards by being the first-ever Asian American host of the awards show. Sandra Oh said: "I said 'yes' to the fear of being on this stage tonight because I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change.” Later on in the show, Oh made history again when she won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama for her starring role in “Killing Eve”. The win made her the first woman of Asian descent to receive more than one Golden Globe award, as well as the first Asian American to win in the category in 38 years.
The biggest sign of Asian American representation at the Golden Globes was, of course, “ Crazy Rich Asians”, which was nominated for two gold statues that night: Constance Wu for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy and Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. The release of “Crazy Rich Asians”, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and the Asian American representation at the Golden Globes is, perhaps, a historic sign of progress for the movement, toward a more inclusive casting, storytelling with fewer stereotypes.
When I asked Kelsey Faamausili, one of our Director/Producers at FitzSili Productions about her thoughts on Asian American representation in Hollywood she was optimistic of Hollywood’s progress however, she feels there is more work to be done. “I am happy there is Asian American representation in Hollywood however I feel like Asian American voices are not fully represented on screen. Being Filipino American, it is disappointing not to see enough Filipino American actors representing the community in Hollywood. My hope is that we can get more specific and go even deeper with different Asian American voices such as Korean American, Japanese American, Chinese American, Filipino American and so much more.
Francisco, Eric. “White Washing be Damned ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Gets an Asian Director in John M. Chu.” 4 May 2016. Web 24 Feb. 2019.
Mae, Clara.” We’re part of a greater movement: Hollywood finally gives Asian stories a spotlight.” 15 Aug. 2018. Web 24 Feb. 2019.
Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “5 Asian American Stereotypes in TV and film that Need to Die.” 14 April 2018. Web 24 Feb. 2019.
Tan, Emily. “Asian Representation Grows at 2019 Golden Globes.” 7 Jan. 2019. Web 24 Feb. 2019.