Asian American Representation in Cinema and What it Means for Us

Written by CAPA-JRC reporters Evelyn Shue and Claire Yu


In August of 2018, Crazy Rich Asians, a movie with a fully Asian main cast that starred Constance Wu as Rachel Chu and Henry Golding as Nick Young, was released. The film chronicled a Chinese-American professor's trip to Singapore with her boyfriend, where she found out that he was the heir of an elite wealthy family. Crazy Rich Asians was an enormous success at the box-office; as the highest grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s, it was nominated for numerous major awards, and promoted Asian representation in Hollywood films.


Three years after Crazy Rich Asians made its debut, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings came to theaters across America in September 2021. This movie adds Shang-Chi, played by Chinese-born actor Simu Liu, to the Marvel universe, making him the first Asian superhero on the big screen. Other members of the cast include Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Tony Leung, and Fala Chen; the film’s soundtrack also features pieces composed by Asian artists like Rich Brian, NIKI, keshi, and more. A story of cultural identity and family, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings skyrocketed in sales, and is now the highest grossing domestic release of 2021.


Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings hardly stand alone; the past few years have ushered in other major films like Minari and The Farewell and big names like Yuh-Jung Youn, Sandra Oh and Chloé Zhao, so much so that they have been dubbed the “golden age of Asian representation in cinema.”


Indeed, for a history of being whitewashed, demeaned or excluded altogether, recent trends have given AAPI good reason to be optimistic. As many still reel from the swell in anti-Asian hate crimes in the wake of the pandemic and combat the stereotypes and microaggressions AAPI face in general, it is things like growing our presence in Hollywood and on the big screen that offer an opportunity to adjust the distorted, false identities mainstream society has projected on us.


This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 26 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.

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