Updated: Apr 20, 2022
Is it just me or a number of movies on Netflix leading up to Christmas have a certain mainstream feel for Asian representation?
This is especially surprising with the release of Love Hard, starring the gorgeous Vampire Diaries lead, Nina Dobrev, and funny guy, Jimmy O. Yang, as well as a crew of diverse actors filling relatable roles not solely based on what is on the outside, but relatable personalities you would attribute to any mainstream Christmas flick.
Love Hard, is making headway in smashing Asian stereotypes. As cringey as the storyline and acting can be in Love Hard, the narrative and depiction of an Asian-American family, and the possibility of a geeky Asian guy who could win the heart of a smart and beautiful American sweetheart is within reach and a part of reality in the world that we live in. Sorry readers, should have warned you for ruining the ending.
It is with great relief that the producers of Love Hard chose not to depict Asian characters with the usual slant, that fresh off the boat accent and narrative.
With this in mind, the movie deserves an Oscar for considering cultural sensitivities and for portraying the many generations of Asians living in the US as part of American society and no longer as outsiders.
This message is duly needed, and more than ever, given 7% of the American population have Asian heritage. 7% may not seem like a great deal, but translate that to numbers, it is pretty much the population of Australia. That's right, 22 million American civilians have Asian heritage. In comparison to Australia, we are certainly winning in the proportion race at nearly 18% of total population. However, representation of Asians as lead characters in mainstream Australian society is still out of reach despite an impressive 11% lead against US statistics.
Imagine a large proportion of that 22 million Asian-American population seeing themselves depicted as part of mainstream society. It must feel amazing to be able to relate to a movie onscreen that represents a life they have crated in day to day America - to feel included.
It must also be a feeling of relief that Asian characters are finally breaking stereotypes. The days of traditional casting of someone with Asian background as a ninja, criminal boss, fresh off the boat immigrant or sex worker is long gone. Lead roles are now given infinite possibilities for Asians across all genres.
Love Hard, at its core is about mistaken love through cat-fishing and delivered in the most cringe-worthy way. If you can bear to look past the glossy Hollywood sheen, it actually brings out some strong motivations and truths on how one could break out of the shell of Asian filial piety and to be truly, and uniquely, you in American society. A society where you could express yourself and pursue what you are passionate about.
If you look a bit deeper, the movie is in fact also filled with subliminal cultural messages of empowerment.
As we all know, children of the first wave of Asian migrants tend to be under immense pressure for success. There is a heavy cloud of obligation to serve the family proud in the fields of medicine, engineering or accountancy. Personal sacrifice and duty to the family are inherent to Asian DNA. Any notion in pursuit of happiness, freedom to explore careers in other fields and personal dreams outside of those projected by the family, are usually disregarded, considered selfish or disappointing. Or, all three rolled into one.
Love Hard drives a particularly powerful message home toward the end of the movie, where an open, honest, heart felt conversation take place to break that age old tradition of 'not talking about it' in fear you would be a disappointment to your family.
This message resonates not only in the US, but here in Australia, and across the world. It serves as a tipping point for Asian generations, now and into the future, to work up the courage to have that potentially disappointing conversation and to believe in the choice you are making to live your best and fullest life.
No matter how cringe-worthy Love Hard is, it is certainly a movie in a league of its own to represent Asians in mainstream American society. The film channels subliminal and explicit messages which might just be the beginning of something revolutionary for Asian representation on the silver screen, and the Asian diaspora in the US and globally.
Another feel good Christmas movie worthy of cultural mention is the very Seth Rogan adaptation of the Night Before Christmas, aptly named, The Night Before. Despite the usual crude nature of a Rogan film, the 2015 movie showcases the spirit of minorities who do not normally celebrate Christmas as part of their cultural and religious rite.
A scene that brings together the Jewish and Chinese community is the shared Christmas Eve dining experience. A tradition that dates prior to 1935 in the US given the proximity of living quarters between the two communities.
The Chinese community served as “a safe haven for American Jews who felt like outsiders on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you go to a Chinese restaurant, you become an insider," quoted by Rabbi Joshua Plaut, author of “A Kosher Christmas”.
And, what have we learnt so far? Could there be anything more heart warming than feeling like you are part of society, no matter what minority you may be?
Thank you producers of Love Hard, Rabbie Joshua Plaut and ... errr Seth Rogan, in your own unique but well contributed way.
BTW readers. Can anyone think of an Australian film with an Asian Australian lead that is outside the traditional scope for casting appealing to mainstream Australian society?
For more on the love affair between the Jewish-Chinese community, check out our article on Shalom Yellow Fever https://www.captainbagrat.com/post/shalom-yellow-fever
If you want more on Jewish-Chinese history, you should definitely have a listen to E79: A Jewish-Chinese Christmas, available on:
🎧 Spotify: http://ow.ly/VlWf30q07Nm
🍎 Podcasts: http://ow.ly/XVVa30q07P6
🔊Available on all major platforms ⚡️Google Podcasts⚡️ Anchor FM ⚡️Overcast ⚡️ Himalaya