When Crazy Rich Asians debuted to almost unanimous praise, media outlets and critics heralded its arrival as the first step in a resurgence of Asian American stories being told on the big screen in a way that felt significant. The timing of Netflix’s sweet, glossy YA romcom To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was serendipitous for this argument’s sake: it was released just two days after John Chu’s million-dollar ode to capitalism and romance and features a Korean American protagonist.
Both films are excellent on their own; viewed together as an unintentional diptych, they represent just two of the many facets of the Asian American experience. These movies are just the beginning. There will be more to come! But since we have not been able to stop thinking about what this mini-resurgence really means (if anything), we asked Vulture’s E. Alex Jung to help us sort it out.
What resonates about both movies is how different they are from the much-lauded and oft-discussed film The Joy Luck Club—mentioned with an alarming frequency as the last movie to feature an all Asian American cast. While Wayne Wang’s ode to immigrant dreams and sisterhood deserves its place in the canon, it is not the only sort of Asian American story that needs to be told. We discuss the erasure of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, representation, Sandra Oh’s hair, and the urgent need for stories about Asian American people that accurately reflect the breadth of the Asian American experience—absent any unnecessary gongs or sweeping shots of rice paddies.