Dismantling The Myth Of The Model Minority: 10 Asian American Films To See Before ‘The Farewell’

The Playlist | 7/12/2019 | Andrew Bundy
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Writer/director Lulu Wang has simply pulled off a miracle of moviemaking with “The Farewell.” Capturing a completely honest portrait of Asian American immigrant family life through a caring battle of cultural discourse, her film weighs Eastern hospitality and tradition against Western self-sufficiency. Her film is at once joyously celebratory and authentically melancholy, painting a specific and respectfully elegant, yet sometimes deliberately unflattering and nuanced, observance of race, family, and communication.

While “Crazy Rich Asians” was unquestionably an inspiring leap forward for Asian/Asian Pacific American (APA) representation, the movie was not without its issues – some that specifically contributed to reinforcing the Model Minority Myth and other misconceptions of ethnic/economic stereotyping. “The Farewell” paints a different portrait of APA life than the 2018 blockbuster comedy does, interrogating differences of ideological dissent by closely examining cultural expectation and Eastern philosophy’s inevitable tether to domestic care and duty.

Plot - Films - Wedding - Regal - Ceremony

Tellingly, the plot of both films is framed around a wedding, and it is the regal, decorative ceremony of matrimony in “Crazy Rich Asians” that is the real lie. The faux wedding in “The Farewell,” however, is based on a true story. Lulu Wang’s story.

Her achievement is simply one of the best films of the year. In honor of its opening this weekend, we thought it pertinent to take a look back at some other inspiring works that have aided in correcting issues of APA representation.

Controversies - Peril - Propaganda - Hollywood - History

From whitewashing controversies to Yellow Peril propaganda, Hollywood history hasn’t always been kind in its portrayal of Asian culture(s). But right now, feels like a representational renaissance, with new voices appearing increasingly accepted by the mainstream. While no film can possibly expect to embody a whole culture or race in its entirety, these 10 films – many of which share similar thematic qualities – sure feel like they’re doing their damnedest.

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