“The Farewell” and the Duality of Language: Finding Depth in What Can and Cannot Be Said

Scene from "The Farewell", directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina.

By Guest Contributor: Claudia Vaughan

Editor’s Note: Please note that this post may contain minor spoilers for the film, “The Farewell”.

The Farewell, A24’s latest film from Chinese-American director Lulu Wang, hit theaters earlier this month, packing a soft but powerful punch. At its core, the film examines what it means to be a caring, accountable family member – AND whether that can ever include being untruthful with your loved ones. The opening scene cheekily notes that the story is “based on an actual lie,” borrowing from real events in Wang’s own life centered around her family’s decision to hide news of her grandmother Nai Nai’s terminal cancer from her. (The story originally ran as an episode of This American Life before Wang began developing it as a feature).

The choice not to inform an elderly relative of his/her illness is commonplace in some Asian cultures, as relatives receive the diagnosis from the doctor first and then choose whether that information is actually shared with the patient. Oftentimes it is not, as is the case in The Farewell. Because of the family’s decision to keep Nai Nai’s diagnosis a secret from her, The Farewell quickly becomes a story of what can and cannot be said – both literally, due to language barriers, and figuratively, in terms of what information can be divulged to whom.

One might even say that language becomes a character in its own right, proving to be a source of power – the more of it you have, the more information you accumulate, but, on the other hand, the more responsibility you must then personally bear.

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The Triumph Beyond Sandra Oh’s Trophy

Sandra Oh at the 2019 Golden Globes.

By Guest Contributor: Jacqueline Wong

Sandra Oh recently made history three times at the 76th Golden Globes Awards as the first Asian American host, the first Asian American woman to win multiple Golden Globes, and the first Asian American woman in nearly 40 years to win for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her role in Killing Eve

Yet it was not just her hosting duties or her receipt of a Best Actress award that made the night so special for Asian Americans.  Rather, it was how Oh unabashedly celebrated her Asian-ness on live TV.  Asian Americans have rarely been given the opportunity to have their faces or voices broadcasted live on such a large platform.  By owning her Asian identity on stage, Oh took back control of the Asian American narrative.

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Reflecting on ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and Being “Asian Enough” as an Asian American Adoptee

A scene from 'Crazy Rich Asians'. (Photo credit: Warner Brothers / Crazy Rich Asians)

By Guest Contributor: Katie Mantele (@chenqiaoling)

On August 15, 2018, the release of Crazy Rich Asians was celebrated by members of the Asian diaspora across the globe, and especially by Asian Americans who have both longed for and championed more diverse Asian representation in Hollywood. As many other op-eds have pointed out, it is the first major Hollywood studio film that stars an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club twenty-five years ago.

As a 20-something-year-old Asian American woman who was adopted from China and raised by white American parents, the significance of this film was not lost on me, nor was the fact that I have lived up until now not seeing any faces that resembled mine portrayed in such a contemporary and nuanced way.
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Crazy Broke Asians: Asian America’s Forgotten Fight

A still from "Crazy Rich Asians" featuring actors Awkwafina, Nico Santos, and Constance Wu.

By Guest Contributor: Do Nguyen Mai

Media is already saturated with unnecessary and unrealistic displays of wealth. Crazy Rich Asians might be a fun, light-hearted summer watch, but we shouldn’t herald the film as adequate or deeply meaningful representation when so many Asian Americans are darker-skinned, working class people, and refugees. Just as Elle Woods of Legally Blonde is hardly representative of most young women, the lives of the characters in Crazy Rich Asians are far from the everyday experiences of most Asian Americans.

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Looking Back at a Road Not Taken and Forward Towards a Future Inspired by Crazy Rich Asians

Constance Wu and Henry Golding, stars of 'Crazy Rich Asians' (Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

By Guest Contributor: Celeste Pewter (@celeste_pewter)

The first time I told my parents I wanted to be an actor, I was seven.

I was at an age where I was mildly obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. My classics movie-loving dad had given me VHS tapes of My Fair Lady for my birthday, and after consuming all one hundred and seventy minutes of the film in all its Technicolor glory, I could think of nothing better than a career that would let me perform and dress up in fabulous costumes daily, just like Audrey herself.

I had more than a few childish daydreams: I would first wow film crew on set, as Hepburn had likely wowed the Fair Lady crew in her transformative performance as Eliza Doolittle. Once my film(s) were released, I would charm my way through the awards season before finally taking to the stage at the Academy Awards and graciously accepting the holy grail of acting: the Best Actress Oscar. In my young heart, this was obviously a future that was meant to be.

But when I confidently announced my future vocation plans to my parents, they laughed knowingly, before sitting me down to have a conversation on the ways of the world.

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