The term “Asian August” has been going around social media recently, and I am here for it. In the past four weeks, I’ve watched more Asian/Asian American-centered digital content than I likely have in the past several years combined. Here’s the full list, in chronological order:
- Saving Face (on Amazon Prime)
- “Yappie” (on YouTube)
- Crazy Rich Asians (in theaters)
- To All the Boys I Loved Before (on Netflix)
There have been many articles published in the recent weeks about the significance of the last three films. Journalists, writers, and other Twitter folk—largely of from Asian background—wrote about how incredible it felt to finally see onscreen someone who looked like them, shared family values with them, and represented in some way their identity and presence in America.
Lana Condor, the lead actress in To All the Boys I Loved Before, shares these sentiments and explains that the lack of Asian/Asian American representation spurred her to accept her role: “My whole reason for doing this is so girls who look like me feel seen.” As an Asian American, specifically Taiwanese American, woman myself, it was so meaningful to see fellow Taiwanese American Constance Wu as the leading lady on the big screen in Crazy Rich Asians.
I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and wished I had blonde hair like Sleeping Beauty, or at least brown hair like Belle. The only two books I read in my youth that featured dark-haired protagonists were The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Julie of the Wolves.
My preteen imagination ended up spending a lot of time imagining I was either protagonist in their respective homes and stories (in other words, making a fence out of palm fronds or befriending wolves by biting them on the noses). Envisioning myself as characters who at least had the same black hair as me made more sense than wishing my hair color away. I know, when reading stories like that of Kelly Marie Tran, I was one of the lucky ones who wasn’t bullied and could find a simple escape through fan fiction by prentending to be Harry Potter’s long lost sister.
In college, I admit I became somewhat jaded about the lack of Asian/Asian American representation in the media. Because I grew up in predominantly white spaces and majored in a field where I was the minority and not the majority, I got used to it. I thought, I didn’t need to find myself represented in the larger American media because I’d already spent so much of my life without it. As Lana said, “It got to the point where there was so little representation. I just thought it was normal.”
Then Wong Fu Productions (the creators behind “Yappie”) began to create more powerful, evocative films than their usual thoughtful, romantic pieces. Ali Wong got her Netflix special. Fresh Off the Boat was produced and signed on to one season after another. Maia and Alex Shibutani, Chloe Kim, Mirai Nagasu, and ten other Asian Americans made a new record for Asian American representation at the Winter Olympics.
And in these people, I found hope. I followed them online and then let myself fall down the Twitter algorithms of suggested folks to follow, discovering more and more Asian and Asian American writers, artists, filmmakers, and creators on Twitter.
Each of these individuals inspires me.
In them, I see stories similar to mine, paths taken that mine could closely mirror in the years to come. I want to be like them by writing an article or a book or a screenplay, yes. But I also want to be like them by being another creator or person who defies stereotypes that some other young Asian American can discover through their Twitter algorithms and start following because my story inspired them to try again, to push harder.
As I write this, articles are now being published about Crazy Rich Asians‘s success at the box office and its newly green-lighted sequel. I watched it last week with my Taiwanese American partner and have plans to watch it again with two of my Asian/Asian American friends next week.
Twitter is still going wild over To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (the film released less than a week ago), and I’ve already had the chance to reconnect with a couple old friends over social media thanks to our shared love for this new rom-com.
Even as I watch all of this record-breaking success happen though, a part of me still hesitates to share my stories. I feel this less with my Asian American peers, more so when I’m with my friends who aren’t Asian. I’m afraid they won’t listen, or they’ll listen but not understand—which I realize is foolish because if I don’t say anything, then they’ll definitely not understand at all.
To everyone who is listening/reading right now, I hope you understand or will begin to understand why these films are important and why many are celebrating them (Crazy Rich Asians with plenty of caveats). My story of appreciation is just one of many, and it would mean the world to see someone outside my now-extensive Asian American community begin to understand and share our same love for these works.