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‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’: The Subtle Resistance to Racist Asian Tropes

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a film adaptation of the young adult book series written by Jenny Han. The film was a hit during the summer of 2018, and it was included in what Twitter users dubbed as “Asian August” due to the prominent success of films that came out during the summer of 2018 that starred Asian Americans. While the romance and comedy of this film pulled many into watching it, what it undoubtedly and successfully did during this summer was tell a story not based on stereotypes but the narrative of the Asian community at large. While the term “Asian” is a monoculture description of the Asian continent and the billions of people living in it who practice different cultures and ethnicities, what the movie, and the novels, portray are experiences that a variety of people within the Asian community can relate to. But it’s also important to note that the film tackled Asian stereotypes as well. 

As an Asian American, what was surprisingly shocking was the portrayal of the female protagonist named Lara Jean. What was so moving about her character was that her story was normal. She was portrayed as an American with Asian ancestry rather than a character that’s been “asianized” in the sense that, for most Hollywood films, in order for them to feel authentically “Asian” or “Latinx”, they often use stereotypes to make it seem legitimate because, according to their point of view, people from other ethnicities and races in America are not able to act like normal Americans, ya know? Instead of having a tiger mom who pressures her Asian kid to have good grades, she has a father who seem supportive of her choices. Instead of worrying what Ivy college she needs to get into because her parents expect her to attend one, she’s worrying about her dashing Peter Kavinsky and her messy, but normal, love life like any girl her age would.

Furthermore, while watching the film, it came as a shock to see the film directly and unapologetically explain the insensitive and racist portrayal of people from the Asian community. Not only that, but the film also portrays how much society at large ignores the obvious racism against Asian Americans. The fact that Peter wasn’t sure if the racist portrayal of an Asian man with a thick Asian accent acting crazy and stupid on Lara Jean’s TV screen just shows how narrow people’s views on racism have become in the United States; that if it’s not blackface, then it’s not racism mentality. Even more shocking is Lara Jean’s reaction to seeing it. She wasn’t surprised; in fact, she expected such portrayal of her community. Racist portrayals of the Asian community have been so normalized that not only is it normal for the community to see it often, society at large is not able to identity it as racist any longer. 

Essentially, for anyone interested, this is a film that is worth the watch. Also, Peter Kavinsky is really cute. Definitely a must watch.

I'm a second year student with a double major in English and International Relations at UCD. I love hot chocolate, the fall season, and is a little too obsessed with kpop. 
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