Asians make up about 60 percent of the global population, and yet there’s an underrepresentation of Asian actors in internationally recognized films. Even though a lot of effort has been put towards diversifying, the entertainment industry still remains a lack of diversity for a long time, particularly for the Asian population.
According to the Washington Post, Asian-American roles have been depicted by American since the 1930s. Anna May Wong, a silent Chinese-American film star failed to receive a Chinese-American role; that position was designated to Louise Reiner, an American-German actress. In the same decade, many Asian fictional characters, such as Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were represented by white men. Not until 1961, when the musical rom-com Flower Drum Song was released, did an Asian American receive a lead character role. In 1993, the first-ever all-Asian-cast movie, The Joy Luck Club, was released, which became “a commercial and critical success.”
25 years later, Crazy Rich Asian became, not just a film, but a movement for diversity in Hollywood, specifically for Asian-Americans. Making $230.3 million, it changed the industry’s perspective on Asians as lead characters and moved past the “whitewashing” roles. Having true Asians as characters, it is a real representation for the Asian community.
Michelle Yeoh, who played Eleanor Sung-Young in Crazy Rich Asians, told us in an interview with NBC News Today, “real representation means you have a meaningful character that has hopes and dreams and in this, in Crazy Rich Asians, that’s what we all have.”
In a similar way, the teen rom-com To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before featured a young Asian-American actress. Lana Condor played the Lara Jean Song Covey, an introverted high schooler whose life completely changed after her five secret love letters were sent out. Lana described in an interview in Shine on Media how she was touched by comments from fans, particularly those who are Asian-American. They were grateful that they finally have someone who is relatable to them or simply looks like them in a movie.
“It shouldn’t be like that, but it is and I’m very very grateful to be a part of this movement.” She added.
In the video, Crazy diverse roads to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ from the Los Angeles Times, the actor of the landmark movie described their journey as Asian-American. Many of them articulated how they didn’t see faces like them on the screen as they grew up. Because of this reason, they were discouraged from pursuing their dreams. So it is very important that Asians is represented in the film industry, so Asian-Americans feel that “their stories matter,” and wouldn’t feel “left out” and “not validated.”
2018 is just the beginning of this movement. Next year, the movie Always Be My Maybe, having Asian-Americans as lead characters, will be released. The live-action version of Mulan is also in production and is scheduled to be released in 2020.
And these are just a few of the upcoming films featuring Asians.
By Thathiny Tep