More Queer than Gay, ‘The Half of It’ is Wholly Necessary

Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu in "The Half Of It". (Photo credit: The Half of It / Netflix)

By Guest Contributor: Kim Tran

This post first appeared in Wear Your Voice Magazine and contains mild spoilers for the film “The Half of It”.

I was terrified of watching The Half of It. The dearth of representation for queer Asian American women means that, fair or not, a lot is riding on this lone film firmly situated in the variegated ‘coming of age’ genre. Based on early trailers, it’s obvious Alice Wu’s long-awaited follow up to the groundbreaking Saving Face could have easily fallen into convention. A reboot of Cyrano de Bergerac with a new ‘diverse’ cast. It could have been a sweet, yet flat rendition of a familiar tale. It could have been Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) cast as the quiet, whip-smart, puppeteer behind her un-clever, friend Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) both in love with the same girl. It could have just been yet another version of that story except with a Chinese American lead struggling to actualize her sexuality in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. It could have been trite and saccharin and perfectly watchable. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Instead, The Half of It shows us how queer a Netflix movie can be when it takes identity as a given and not a destination. Stripped bare, Wu’s newest film is a rare gift, a movie that embodies queerness and Asianness with ease and space. 

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What I Want From Chester Tam’s Upcoming Rom-Com Film

Photo credit: Monique Jones

By Guest Contributor: Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet)

Note: A version of this article originally appeared last year in Just Add Color.

A few months ago, during one of my shifts for Shadow and Act, I reported on Gabrielle Union’s upcoming starring role in a new Screen Gems rom-com. The film is unique among Screen Gems’ repertoire: it’s about an interracial relationship between an Asian man and a Black woman, and is written by Chester Tam.

The film is based on Tam’s real-life relationship experiences. Currently, no actor has yet to be cast opposite Union as her romantic interest.

From my article:

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chester Tam will direct a rom-com for Screen Gems starring Gabrielle Union. The film, based on Tam’s own script, will be semi-autobiographical and follow “a newly single African-American woman who begins dating a recently divorced Asian-American man,” per the article’s description.

The logline, the article states, hasn’t been fully revealed, but will focus on “how a drunken one-night stand leads to a secret relationship that eventually becomes public, surprising both friends and family of the couple given that neither is typically the other’s type.”

While the plot of this upcoming film sounds interesting, I’m hesitant. Given this backdrop, how will this film present heterosexual interracial relationships between Asian men and Black women — and might it do more damage than good?

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Focusing on Parasite’s Success Misses an Opportunity to Challenge Anti-Blackness

The cover image of the Parasite DVD/Blu-Ray

By Guest Contributor: Nicholas Wong

Last month, people around the world celebrated the underdog success of Korean film Parasite as it swept through the 92nd Academy Awards to win four Oscars. Each new award for the film ratcheted up a breathless excitement that culminated in a historic win for Best Picture, the first foreign-language film to ever take home that honour.

The victory was especially meaningful to Asian North Americans1Writing as I am from a Canadian context, I use the term “Asian North American” here to collectively refer to the broadly similar sociocultural categories of “Asian American” and “Asian Canadian”; however, I recognize that these categories warrant distinction under other analytical circumstances. , who took to social media in droves to express their pride in the film’s achievements. For decades, Asian North Americans have lamented the deplorable state of Asian representation in Western pop culture. In North American media, Asians have been either almost non-existent or, when portrayed, depicted through harmful racist stereotypes. In recent years, high-profile controversies surrounding films like Aloha and Ghost in the Shell – both of which featured the “whitewashing” of ostensibly Asian roles – have amplified the call for more Asian representation in Hollywood.

A positive shift in this cause has occurred over the past two years, with Asian-led films like Crazy Rich Asians, Always Be My Maybe, and The Farewell garnering box office success and critical acclaim. These films, all helmed by Asian directors and featuring Asian actors in starring roles, have been praised within the Asian North American community for proving the viability of Asians in pop culture, authentically portraying our experiences, and debunking stereotypes. Add on Parasite’s Best Picture win, and it would appear as though Asians have finally broken through Hollywood’s bamboo ceiling.

However, the reading of these films’ significance as primarily tied to their success in achieving Asian representation reveals a limited capacity for Asian North Americans to critically evaluate their own media. The perceived scarcity of – and consequent hunger for – Asian popular media representation has foreclosed the possibility of talking about our successes in anything but celebratory tones. “If we don’t support our own at all costs,” the thinking goes, “we may never get another chance.”

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“Parasite” makes history at Oscars

Writer-Director Bong Joon-Ho accepts an Oscar at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” — a compelling exploration of class inequality in South Korea — has received near-universal critical acclaim. The first Korean film to win the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, and the first non-English language film to receive the Outstanding Performance by a Cast award at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, “Parasite” made history tonight when it also became the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture Academy Award.

In total, “Parasite” — which was released on Blu-Ray last week — received four of the six Academy Awards for which it was nominated: in addition to Best Picture, the film was awarded Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay and director Bong Joon-Ho was awarded Best Director.

Prior to tonight, Bong Joon-Ho called out the narcissism of American Hollywood while claiming the Best Foreign Language Film prize at the Golden Globes. “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” he said in his acceptance speech.

This is a truism many of us familiar with non-American film already recognize: amazing films are made around the world, and (whether in America or abroad) in languages other than English. Indeed, some of my earliest memories of of fantastic films are Chinese-language films introduced to me by my parents. And yet, only rarely do non-English films (even American-made ones like “The Farewell”) get recognized or celebrated by Hollywood — a trend that underscores the many ways that non-white films are still Other-ized.

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“Parasite” Blu-Ray Giveaway Contest

The cover image of the Parasite DVD/Blu-Ray

By now, you might have heard of this little movie called Parasite which has taken the Hollywood awards season by storm. If not, you should check out guest contributor Claudia Vaughan’s review of Parasite for this site.

Directed by Bong Joon-Ho, Parasite has received widespread critical acclaim, and has already won Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Golden Globes, and the Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards. It is nominated for Best Picture at next month’s Oscars.

Parasite comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray next week on January 28th. In time for that release date, I am hosting a free giveaway of a Parasite Blu-Ray. Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Follow @reappropriate on Twitter.
  2. Write a tweet sharing a thought about how income inequality affects Asian Americans. Could be anything: the wealth gap, the gender pay gap, student loan debt, etc. Tag @Reappropriate and #ReParasiteGiveaway.
  3. That’s it! On January 28th, I’ll select a winner and send you your free copy of the Parasite Blu-Ray.

Get to tweeting!