I went to see The Farewell today. Loved it. Seeing a movie from a Chinese-American perspective was interesting personally because it’s something that I can relate to, although not fully since I’m a generation or two removed from any family connection with China. However, I know a fair bit about Chinese culture so the movie felt special and the situations were familiar. Come to think of it, Billi is somewhat removed from China as well and is the same generation as my Mom, whose parents emigrated from China.
Billi is 100% Chinese-American (both parents are from China), but I’m mixed-race Asian-American, which is why I couldn’t more closely relate to her. On one hand, I’m a bit envious that Billi can identify as Chinese. On the other hand, as a mixed-race Asian-American, I am proud of my mixed heritage since I can identify with Japanese culture, Chinese culture, and to a lesser extent, Hawaiian culture. But I am not able to be 100% committed to one, and that is somewhat unsatisfying. It makes identity complicated. Hanging out with Chinese-American, Japanese-American, or Korean-American friends growing up, I felt like a mutt (albeit with a bit of pride) inside. My last name meant that people (at least other Asians) saw me as Japanese-American even though I am over 60% Chinese. I’m also 6% English, but honestly, I’ve never identified with that part of my heritage. Why not? Well, I’ll have to think about that… Anyways, it’s complicated!
Back to the movie, the character Aiko was one of the most intriguing for me. To most viewers, her role was kind of throw-away, but I kept thinking about her and Hao Hao and their future kids (if in fact they are getting married) since they will be mixed Chinese-Japanese like me. What will their lives be like in Japan? What will their family visits back to China be like? How much Chinese culture will they be taught while living in Japan? What kind of discrimination will they face there?
Aiko’s situation was actually the most palpable to me. I’ve been in similar situations where I was at my girlfriend’s family gatherings in Hong Kong, and could only smile and be polite. And of course in Japan to a lesser extent, I have to do the same. So when Aiko is at the dinner table and banquet, I could feel her awkwardness! I also know how isolated and lonely you can feel when in that kind of situation for days on end. Gambatte, Aiko!
I was also thinking about POC representation in Western movies – with so many different kinds of mixed-race Asians in the world… would it be possible to depict the cultural complexities for each combination? Is it worth it? Too niche? Or must mixed-race Asians pick and choose where to find their on-screen representation? I wonder what Awkwafina‘s thoughts are about it since she is Chinese- and Korean-American… 🤔
The Farewell has given me plenty to think about. But if I didn’t mention it earlier, go see The Farewell. It’s a great film! 👍