Explaining why representation is important to someone who doesn’t already understand, or is empathetic to the situation is a hard thing to do. Here’s my attempt.
I was 24 before I was able to buy an action figure that looked like me, in the forms of Rose and Paige Tico from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” I’m currently 24. What moved me, being able to buy these figures as an adult, was the thought of some young Asian girl out there somewhere, just being able to even see an action figure that resembles her. There is SO much power in that.
Last week on my drive home, I was listening to Dax Shepard’s new podcast “Armchair Expert.” Ashton Kutcher was the guest. Dax and Ashton went back and forth listing off the actors that inspired them, whose careers they wanted when they were younger. Tom Cruise. Kirk Cameron. Hearing them list off people they looked up to, made me wonder who was on my list when I was younger.
I can’t think of one. I was too young to have seen Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl.” There were a few people who I gravitated towards, and it didn’t even register with me that I gravitated towards them because they looked similar to me until a couple years ago. Michelle Branch, Hoku…god I remember the first time I saw Betty Nguyen on CNN. I didn’t know what news story she was reporting, all I knew was holy shit…there’s a lady on TV who has the same last name as me. Who knew that was even possible?
That’s all representation comes down to in my eyes. Possibility. Representation might mean something else for someone else, but that’s what it means for me. That’s why I think movies like “Black Panther” and “A Wrinkle In Time” are so important for people to see.
“Black Panther” confronts the audience with a lot of hard truths. From the “villain” having more or less the same goals as the heroes of the movie, but just the wrong methodology. It also shows that “the world is watching” some of us, more so than others — and more closely at that. A great, great thing that this movie showed as well – is a great ally. An ally who follows the lead of the people he’s trying to help. Instead of trying to take the lead and matters into his own hands. He trusts that these people who’ve lived their stories their whole lives know which route is best. I think that’s so important for people to see, because I truly think that a lot of people think that if they’re not an active part of the solution, then they’re a part of the problem. Sometimes being a good ally can be as simple as paying attention.
If you want to see the impact of Black Panther, check out this also Tonight Show video:
It should be noted that “A Wrinkle In Time” isn’t out yet, and I haven’t seen it, but the impact is still there. The fact that it revolves around a biracial Black girl, who is the heroine of the movie. That will empower so many young kids who share a similar background.
In the big picture of life, I’m no one. But the fact of the matter is there are people out there who are younger than I am, who have found me somehow – and they feel like they can do what I do, because they see me actively doing what they perceive as succeeding. Which to me, is crazy, because there’s still SO MUCH that I want to do and make – but I get it. I understand the very unique position that I’m in, and I’m grateful that I have a platform to encourage young API kids to go after what they want.
I understand how important it is to feel that. I feel like while I would still have the same sense of humor that I do now, but I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as confident in it had I not seen Awkwafina’s Mickey Avalon parody when I was 19. She’s only a few years older than me, but I look up to her endlessly. She’s the opposite of what all media has told us that Asian girls should be. She’s bold, and is unapologetic about voicing her opinion on what matters. 2018 is going to be her launchpad and I’m too stoked to see where it takes her.
Obviously “Black Panther” and “A Wrinkle In Time” are just two examples, but there’s so much out there and so much more to be made. Everyone just needs a chance to tell their story. Everyone deserves to feel seen.
P.S. If you have the means to send a class to see either of these films, PLEASE DO! You can easily find campaigns for these movie field trips on GoFundMe. You never know how much something as simple as seeing a movie can change someone’s life.