by Grace Zhang
I was overjoyed when I saw that Lana Condor was playing the role of Lara Jean in the movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Correction. I was overjoyed until I realized her ethnicity would probably be ignored for the rest of the movie. Believe me, the representation of Asians in Hollywood is a great thing. It’s so important that Asian-Americans get to see a world in television that reflects their own and that they get to have role models that look like and understand us. However, the problem with Lara Jean and so many other Asian characters is that their ethnicity only ever seems to be skin deep. Often it feels as if their role could be played by another actor who wasn’t Asian and their character wouldn’t suffer any noticeable differences. In simpler terms, their ‘Asianess’ isn’t written into their characters. This behavior is problematic because ignores the point of increasing diversity in the media in the first place. When I was growing up, I never felt like my culture or my ethnicity was normal, I always wanted to be white. This was mostly because besides my family, I didn’t know many other Asians. The media I consumed featured mostly white people and anyone who remotely resembled me was merely a caricature. When Hollywood doesn’t make the effort to write well thought out, culturally accurate characters, they continue to ignore our culture and tell us that who we are isn’t appropriate for the screen. Obviously, Asian-Americans are still Americans. I still find myself enjoying and relating to characters on the screen, but there are still parts of us that are just inherently different from our white neighbors. The ‘token Asian actors/actress’ inserts only continue to remind us that Hollywood doesn’t completely comprehend our place in American society. It feels like a denial of my culture, my fellow Asians, and our worth as American citizens. So while American media is making steps in the right direction, away from yellowface and toward equal representation, they still need to walk a lot farther.