Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Stephanie Hsu Deserves All the Awards, Goddammit

The Golden Globes nominating Jamie Lee Curtis over the brilliant Hsu for Everything Everywhere All At Once feels like salt in the wound for Asian audiences.

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Image for article titled Stephanie Hsu Deserves All the Awards, Goddammit
Photo: Rich Fury (Getty Images)

As a woman of color, I can’t count how many times white people have slighted me—but this time, they’ve gone too far.

This year’s Golden Globes nominations, released on Monday, seemed to have forgotten a name in the Best Supporting Actress category: Stephanie Hsu, the central antagonist (Jobu Tupaki) and tritagonist (Joy) in Everything Everywhere All At Once—one of the stunning films gunning it for the Oscars early next year. Instead, Jamie Lee Curtis, who played the film’s IRS agent Dierdre, was nominated. Respectfully, I’d like to echo Twitter’s general sentiment: What the actual fuck? How was this even up for debate?

Hsu was bonkers brilliant in this film. As Joy, Evelyn’s (Michelle Yeoh) teenage lesbian daughter, she effortlessly possesses the angst and resentment of someone who is consistently misunderstood by the person she wants most to be seen by. Then, as the evil force Jobu Tupaki, she transforms into a conniving and scornful mastermind, oozing with confidence and moxie.

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If you need a refresher, amid its action-packed, verse-hopping, hotdog-fingered spectacle, Everything Everywhere All At Once is, at its core, a film about the intergenerational pain of miscommunication—specifically between mothers and daughters—that many Asian American families carry. Choosing to nominate Curtis over Hsu for the Golden Globe title feels emblematic of how wider (and whiter) audiences received the film: with little to no attention to the rich and intricate portrait of Asian family dynamics it depicts. It’s a salt in the wound for those (like myself) who were seeing the pain of an Asian mother/daughter relationship portrayed beyond stereotypes (like the overbearing Tiger Mom) for the first time.

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It’s almost as if Curtis’ presence as a famous white actor validates the film, completely skewing which scenes are central to its emotional resonance. If Curtis really was the best supporting actress in this film, then maybe the laughably obtuse synopsis some airlines used in their in-flight entertainment was right: Everything Everywhere All At Once is just about “an exhausted Chinese American woman can’t seem to finish her taxes.”

Fans seem to agree that this snub feels especially illogical given how Hsu, alongside Yeoh, practically carried the whole film on her back. With her unmatched Broadway-to-Hollywood chops (seriously, I implore you to watch her audition tape), many argue that Hsu’s acting was the very reason “emotional moments actually work” in the film. Others can’t help but bring up the racial element to the decision, suggesting that the nomination not only undermines Hsu’s work but the overall project of the movie itself.

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Some have pointed out that Curtis has significant seniority and acclaim, which makes her a better nominee, but Hsu has proven her talent in the past. In July of this year, the Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Film Awards nominated both Hsu and Curtis for Best Supporting Actress for the film, and Hsu won. It’s the classic underdog moment that Hollywood typically eats up, so why is Hsu being denied what she has rightfully earned? With the Hollywood Foreign Press Association just bouncing back from scandals accusing them of racist nominations last year, you’d think they’d take this as a chance to give praise where it’s due.

For many Asian American actors (and viewers), the desire for recognition isn’t just about prestige—it’s about finally feeling like we’re finally being seen. Even Yeoh, who was recently named Time’s Icon of the Year, says as much about a potential Oscar win: “It’s not about needing it,” she told Time. “It’s that feeling that you don’t have to explain: it’s love from other people. My arms are out open.”

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The Golden Globes—and every other awarding body for that matter—can do whatever the hell they want, but Hsu still wins every award in my book. I’d give almost anything to the woman who cured my Asian mommy issues.