By Sarah Goraya
For anyone who hasn’t read this Retrospect article, it describes the author’s beliefs that an actor’s personal culture/ethnicity should be written into their characters so their experience is more unique and relatable for people of that culture. She cites Lana Condor in the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and criticizes this an an example of Hollywood being satisfied with simply including an Asian actor without including elements of the Asian experience that would make the character any different than if they were played by an actor of another race. She states, “It feels like a denial of my culture, my fellow Asians, and our worth as American citizens”. However, I believe that it is exactly this type of inclusion that strengthens the validity of our place in American society.
I’ve always believed that representation of minorities should be reflected in Hollywood in the same way, and in fact be less focused on being the minority. I agree that more nuanced cultural details could enrich the audience’s perception of that minority and provide an element of relatability to people of that culture. More movies and TV shows need to have actors of different races, ethnicities, and sexualities, and when people exist in a society where they are part of a minority group, their own backgrounds and cultures certainly affect the way they act and interact with others. However, those few aspects of their identities do not define everything about them. For example, there are spaces where I would like myself being female or Pakistani or Muslim to be taken into account and respected, but I’m lucky that neither myself nor others tend to consider these identities when I’m just going about my day in an all-girls institution that strives to celebrate its diversities.
Conversely, so many times in the media, like movies, when someone of a minority is cast as the main role, then the whole movie is just about how being that minority affects their life. Not only does that erase a major relatability factor for anyone who isn’t a part of that minority, but there is a sudden need for other people to be open-minded enough to watch a movie about a culture different from theirs, which could lead to less viewers going to see the movie and learning about that culture.
Consider if the protagonist of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was white. Would their being white have anything to do with the storyline? No. I want producers to simply be comfortable enough with the presence of other identities that they can cast them in title roles without having to worry about changing the plot to focus on culture. Of course a movie about how being Asian could affect someone’s romantic relationships could be integral to understanding and sharing Asian culture, like the experiences of children of immigrants or the lives of young minorities in modern America. But an Asian-American also deserves to see themselves represented in a movie about a person having romantic relationships – a person who just happens to be Asian.