Earlier this week, it was reported that Henry Golding would be starring alongside Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in an upcoming Paul Feig movie. At first, I was excited. Then, the only thought I had was, “I hope they don’t fuck this up.”
I would be lying if I said the fact that his two co-stars being Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively didn’t add to my anxiousness about this movie and Henry’s part in it. Let’s be real. Social media sells. Surprise, social media promotion is written into some (if you have a larger following, I imagine it’s harder for studios to negotiate this) Hollywood contracts now! Yeah, some of those bio links you see? Contractually obligated! All that to say that Hollywood is really starting to see the value in their actors having followings on social. Kendrick and Lively have a combined following of 28.7 million followers on Instagram. Arguably the most powerful social media platform right now. Those two being attached, as well as the ability to push “from the director of Bridesmaids” – means that this movie is almost guaranteed to do well, which translates to being seen.
Based on the small amount I’ve read on the movie, and the book that it’s based off of, there’s potential for Golding’s character to be the bad guy – which is fine. I just really want people to know how important this movie will be to young, Asian males. In the movie, Golding will be playing Lively’s husband. Yeah, it might be sort of awful that an entire community is stoked on this guy being attached to the hot girl. On the same token though, that’s the whole reason why this is important. Asian males are so, SO often hyper de-sexualized in widely distributed media, that seeing this interracial relationship will be a game changer to a lot of people.
No, this isn’t the first piece of media where the Asian guy gets the girl. We have Steven Yeun in “The Walking Dead”, and Hayden Szeto in “The Edge of Seventeen.” While “The Walking Dead” is a huge show with a huge following, it’s still not THAT widely seen. I mean, I don’t watch it. That tidbit about Yeun playing a strong character that gets the girl is the only thing I know about it. It’s the only thing that SO MANY Asian people know about it, because it simply hasn’t happened before. “The Edge of Seventeen” got a wide release, but so much of any box office success that movie had was due to hearsay. I saw that movie in theaters three times just to get other people to see it. Every time I’ve seen that movie with guys I went to high school with (I grew up in an area with a very prominent Vietnamese population), they would see Hayden Szeto’s awkwardness mixed with his charming confidence win over Hailee Steinfeld’s character (who is part Filipino. Which is why I pushed that movie so hard when it came out. An American coming of age comedy led by two Asian kids? That NEVER happens. I think that movie might have been the first one.), and were like, “Holy shit. I was halfway there.” That realization right there, is why it’s going to be important how Golding’s character carries himself.
So many Asian males find their confidence through the media of other cultures, simply because there’s nothing out there that shows their own. The ENTIRE PREMISE of the show “Fresh Off The Boat” is about a young Asian kid finding, and learning about himself through his connection with hip hop. It astounds me when people don’t realize that yeah, representation is getting MUCH better – but we’re nowhere near where we should be.
Like I said, you can’t have that cast with that social media following, and not drive a good number of people to the theaters. This blog post was a really long winded way to say that representation matters. Just having Asian characters isn’t good enough anymore. HOW they’re represented I feel like adds to the narrative of how society views us. For example, as much of a Marvel fan as I am. That new Avengers trailer is bullshit. The only like two, maybe three seconds that Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff, who is half Korean) is shown – she is just completely destroyed for comic relief. I get it, that’s her character. But I also struggle watching her character on screen and seeing how it pushes the toxic idea of Asians being a “model minority.” The idea that people can just continually abuse Asians whether physically, verbally, emotionally, financially, or otherwise and we’ll just lie there and take it.
The idea of the model minority is alive and well and people eat that shit up. The year that Chris Rock hosted the Oscars was prime example of that. Where race is a hot button issue, so everyone avoids making racially charged jokes..until they bring up three small Asian kids to push stereotypes and mock them on the world’s largest stage. I just hope all of this is taken into consideration when Asian, or any minority talent is cast. Also, since the post as really run away from me already. I really hope there isn’t a weird erasure of his culture in this film, that happens a lot with Asian actors. They’re given a white name, and their background is just never addressed – and the excuse of “colorblind casting” (which is a trap, but that’s a whole different conversation.) is often thrown around for the sake of avoiding the question. As stated earlier…I just really hope they don’t fuck this one up.