Media and films are much more than just means of entertainment; they have a powerful impact on how we comprehend and build our society, because of their way of storytelling. Through the passage of time, the entertainment industry has evolved for the better to be more inclusive. In fact, Asian and Asian American representation in popular culture and entertainment history has grown in recent decades; however, stereotypes, preconceptions, and assumptions on Asians are becoming increasingly acknowledged. As a result of this increase, higher concerns have been made, regarding how the Asian population is portrayed in the current film industry.
In spite of recent strides towards diversity and inclusion in films and TV, Asian characters still tend to be depicted as weak, nerdy, peculiar, incapable, and powerless, and consequently, it is highly uncommon that these Asians are in the spotlight as leads in films. According to TIME, a report indicated that even though Asian Americans accounted for 5.4 percent of the US population in 2014, they only made up 1.4% of lead roles in studio films. To combat this, the entertainment industry has strived to make further improvements to films so that the industry becomes more inclusive, paving the way for new voices and showcasing various sorts of new stories.
A few examples of the most successful and popular films that have been praised for this are “Over the Moon” (2020) and “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018). Such films are considered as constructive steps towards a more accurate representation of Asians and Asian Americans a part of the film industry. These films are interesting and intriguing not because they are about Asians or Asian Americans, but because they have unique characters and plots. They used classic American cinema techniques and story devices while infusing Asian culture into these stories, in order to encourage the entire film industry to appreciate them.
To begin with, the film “Over The Moon” tells a story about Asian culture. The film is about Fei Fei, a young girl from a mooncake-making family, as she builds a rocket ship to fly herself to the moon to see if the Chang’e tale is true. The fable is based on a Chinese folklore about the moon goddess Chang’e and how she was forced to leave the man she loved on Earth in order to return to the moon, where she is only accompanied by her rabbit companion. This is an epitome of an exceptional Asian American film, due film’s ability to utilize a Chinese tale and inclusive characterization of Asians. Cathy Ang, the voice actor of Fei Fei from this film, stated, “We’ve heard from so many kids and families, especially those of Asian descent, about them seeing themselves in these characters. The response that we’ve seen from the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the U.S. to all these films makes me feel like it’s a good representation of these people.”
Moreover, the film “Crazy Rich Asians” gained an incredibly high amount of popularity and audience, because of the film’s diversity and inclusivity of Asians. Worldwide fans suggest that this romantic comedy, based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel, effectively demonstrates the “power of diversity.” “Crazy Rich Asians” also presents an all-Asian cast, which is a unique thing for Hollywood, as this is not the case for many films. Not only for Asian actors, but also for Asian and Asian-American spectators, this film was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, despite this film’s success, a recent report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, “Inequality in 1,100 Popular Films,” showed that among the top 100 films in 2017, two thirds didn’t include a single Asian or Asian-American character. This sends a strong message that there ought to be more films similar to “Crazy Rich Asians” that serve as examples of inclusivity in the entertainment industry.
In spite of how significant progress has been made towards inclusivity and diversity, there is still a lot to be done for the film industry to demonstrate a genuine depiction of Asians, ensuring that popular Asian stereotypes are not demonstrated. Media and the film industry play an important role in how people view society and perceive different types of people. Therefore, it is important for this industry to ensure that films are not leading to skewed perspectives on society and ensure that they demonstrate accurate representations of different groups of individuals.
Feature Image: WARNER BROS