You said this story was kind of like a fairy tale
July 19, 2017 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Nicole Chung took her daughter to see an all-Asian-American production of The Winter's Tale. "There are so many different types of inheritances; one I still hope my children can somehow sidestep is the void, the frustration of desperately searching for yourself, or people like you, in a cultural landscape that does not seem to be for you. And what does it say about you, about your worth and your importance and the possibilities open to you, if you can’t find yourself at all?"
posted by ChuraChura (6 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
But then I remembered the flash of delighted surprise I felt when I saw my first Olivia: the same surprise I felt, still feel, whenever I catch a glimpse of a fellow Asian in a place I did not expect.

Oh, this. It's weird to realize you do and feel these things still, even though you think you're so strong and over it.

In a way, I'm lucky: I grew up on a fairly steady diet of children's books involving Asian and Asian American characters, which is not something the generation before me had. But I still found it limiting, because the stories DID revolve around cultural conflict and racial trauma, and I came to believe that going into an internment camp, or fighting with your mom about kimchi, was what it meant to be Asian American, and I must not "really" be Asian because I was just living a normal kid life. Claudia Kishi was the only bright light. These days I'm taking so much joy in the recent spate of YA novels featuring Asian American teens as quirky romantic leads: first Eleanor and Park (which is by a white author and is controversial, but I still love it), then Everything, Everything, the Lara Jean books, The Sun Is Also a Star, When Dimple Met Rishi. Because even when you're 30 years old you want to see yourself in teen romances, at least when you've been taught that all you are is trauma and internment and railroad labor and tiger mothers. Same with Crazy Rich Asians - when was the last time I got to see my people stabbing each other in the back, getting massages on private jets, going on a shopping spree at Hermes? Shakespeare is kind of the opposite end of the cultural spectrum from the stuff I enjoy, but it's the same feeling in that it's outside of the extremely narrow band of roles we've come to expect to see Asian Americans in, and for that I celebrate it.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:31 AM on July 19, 2017 [12 favorites]

I enjoyed this comic by Yumi Sakugawa about "Claudia Kishi, My Asian-American Female Role Model of the 90s," which seems salient.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:10 AM on July 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's weird to realize you do and feel these things still, even though you think you're so strong and over it.

Very much this--I knew that Asian-American representation in media I consume was limited and that was a bummer (especially as something other than "mystical oriental martial artist"), but I didn't think I was hurting too much over it, and then I watched Big Hero 6 and cried to see a Japanese-American Disney protagonist, and I watched the DNC last summer and ended up in tears to see Asian-Americans / Pacific Islanders represented and acknowledged on the stage.
posted by Vibrissa at 9:06 AM on July 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

There is a good quote in today's excellent NY Times article by Lindy West about the new Doctor Who female lead: Representation teaches us who we can be, but it also teaches other people who we are and how to treat us.

When I was a kid in the early 70s, we'd get called inside to watch TV when black people were on. It's funny now, kind of. After Good Times, Sanford and Son, The Flip Wilson Show, it became less of a big deal but I still remember my sister coming to the front door and yelling for us to come inside because black people were on TV and we would drop whatever we were doing to go see.
posted by shoesietart at 10:54 AM on July 19, 2017 [13 favorites]

When I was a kid there were very few people who looked like me in movies and on TV. And if they were there, they were often a cringeworthy joke. I'm an adult and I still get so excited seeing an Asian person as a main character in visual media. Seeing yourself represented is huge--I think it's a hard concept for people who see themselves represented in everything to really grasp.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:48 AM on July 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

It's a hard concept for those don't see themselves represented to grasp as well. When I was growing up, the lack of Asian cultural visibility didn't bother me, or so I thought. Our parents looked down on the arts in general - acting was a frivolous pursuit, and pursuing it as a career would be unthinkable. My Dad encouraged us to read non-fiction books rather than wasting time on "story" books. So that was us, feeling superior because we didn't care about such trivialities. At the same time, I was incredibly shy. Maybe that was because I didn't feel I fit in. Maybe that was because stories are a culture's way of talking about itself. And if you don't get talked about, there's only loneliness. Anyhow, decades later, I'm coming around to the opposite conclusion: Representation, done with integrity, matters.
posted by storybored at 9:28 PM on July 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

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