Asian-Americans have scratched the surface of romantic comedies in Hollywood and are paving the way for future ethnic groups to dominate the film industry by making it big on both the big screens and small screens this summer .
The Netflix original film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and Warner Bros. film “Crazy Rich Asians” continue to be the craze all over social media platforms since their August debuts, both receiving 90 percent ratings from Rotten Tomatoes.
So why are some critics not giving these films the praise they deserve?
For actress Lana Condor, playing the lead role of Lara Jean Covey in the Netflix romantic comedy was an opportunity she never thought would come true due to her appearance. Her role as a teenage Korean-American girl, whose life gets complicated after her younger sister mails out her secret love letters to every boy she has had a crush on, has made her a public icon for viewers, especially for Asian-American girls.
“People in Hollywood defer to what they know, which is a white lead, particularly in romantic comedies,” she told The Cut in an interview.
On Good Housekeeping’s list of The 55 Best Romantic Comedies of All Time, not one of the films starred an Asian-American role. And even the representation of my own Hispanic culture in Hollywood is so low I can count all the films on my fingers. It is widely apparent to many theater-goers that a large majority of movies, in this case romantic comedies, are all whitewashed.
“When Asian women are missing from two-thirds of the top 100 Hollywood films of the year, we are in dire need of films led by women who look like me,” said Nancy Wang Yuen, a writer for The Huffington Post.
A lot of the film’s critiques revolve around the unreasonable assumption that the lead role’s love interest needed to be Asian or Asian-American.
“Oh, so Asian people can only love Asian people? I can only be with my race?” argues Condor in an interview with Seventeen Magazine. “In my experience, I’ve loved all races. It’s not like I can only be with my people. I don’t think we should be stuck to only loving people based on what they look like.”
Most of the relationships I have encountered personally and many couples that I’ve noticed are largely interracial because love is driven by intimate connections, not just based off appearances. It’s about appreciating and recognizing differences. Interracial relationships are a reality that deserve to be represented in the media more often, just like the other culturally diverse lives who do not fit the “white picket fence” families seen on mainstream media.
In “Crazy Rich Asians,” which has a majority Asian cast, critics continue to hold back from praising the films twist on traditional romantic-comedies.
The film follows the life of Rachel Chu, a middle aged Chinese-American woman played by Constance Wu, on a trip with her longtime boyfriend to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding, where she unexpectedly discovers his family’s wealthy background.
In a New York Times article titled, “For Some Viewers, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Is Not Asian Enough,” Sangeetha Thanapal, a Singaporean Indian writer and activist, believes the film is just another example of how America is easily congratulated for attempting to break the glass ceiling for diversity yet does not accurately represent Singaporeans.
No film can perfectly depict the life of any society, but Jon M. Chu, director of the film, came fairly close to accurately representing the demographic of Singapore. The nation is primarily comprised of those of Chinese decent, leading by 74.3 percent, according to IndexMundi, an online data portal that details country statistics.
Wu took the criticism to Twitter, responding to the backlash tweeting that the film “won’t represent every Asian-American,” and she could not be more right. Although I may not be Asian-American, both films transcended any past romantic comedies I have seen because, for once as a young, brown girl, I have seen more than the whiteness that mainstream Hollywood continues to regurgitate every year.