“It’s not a movie, it’s a movement.”
-Jon M Chu, the director of Crazy Rich Asians
CRA is not meant to be the end all and be all of Asian representation. It is however a part of the ongoing effort to tell more stories, to prove that stories can be centred around people who, as Loan Tran wrote yesterday, have existed in the margins and outer spaces of pop culture – and be successful.
So let’s keep the movement going. The movement has been strong the last couple of weeks with CRA and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. The movement continues this weekend with the release of Searching, starring John Cho. Or, rather, #StarringJohnCho. It’s been two years since that hashtag started trending. Last year John Cho was the lead in a gorgeous independent film called Columbus. This year he’s the male lead in a thriller about a father desperate to find his missing daughter. As he said after the premiere the other night:
Rachel and Nick are like any other couple in love in Crazy Rich Asians. Lara Jean Covey is experiencing love for the first time, just like any other high school girl. The family in Searching is dealing with a crisis, the way any family would deal with crisis. They just happen to be Asian. And that’s the goal – for this eventually to become not that big of a deal.
Now though, yeah, it is a big deal. It’s a big deal that Sandra Oh is the first Asian woman to be nominated for lead actress in a drama at the Emmys. Sandra Oh is one of three children born to Korean parents in Nepean, Ontario. Her older sister, Grace, was the one who encouraged her acting aspirations. When I read this in E Alex Jung’s new profile of Sandra at Vulture, Lara Jean Covey came to mind. Lara Jean is also Korean. She also has a big sister. I wonder what it would have been like if Lara Jean’s story was around when Sandra was growing up. And what it’s like now for kids around Lara Jean’s age, knowing that the teen rom-com everyone is talking about is about an Asian girl who binge-reads epic romance novels and writes letters to her secret crushes.
Sandra tells E Alex Jung that even after starring as the lead in two acclaimed Canadian productions at the beginning of her career, she was told by Hollywood that she was not X enough (X = pretty, special, white) to find work as a lead in a major market. This is why, after working on Grey’s Anatomy for a decade as Cristina Yang, one of the best TV characters of all time, she still had a hard time believing she’d been offered the lead in Killing Eve.
You know what though? She waited for that role. After leaving Grey’s, Sandra turned down other opportunities. Other LEAD opportunities. And this is what gets me fist-pumpy about E Alex Jung’s latest piece (another GREAT piece, he’s basically the authority on Sandra Oh now). It’s that despite all the rejection, even though she always knew she could play the lead, being *just* the lead was the bare minimum. She wasn’t looking to be the lead in just anything. She was looking to be the lead in the specific thing she was waiting for.
Of course there is a certain privilege to that, yes. But also? Especially for someone who was denied opportunities for so long? And still to be like, nah, I’ll wait for the thing that I want on my time, and not on your time… there’s audacity in it too, right? That’s Sandra Oh. Showing her work, over and over and over again.
Click here to read E Alex Jung’s piece on Sandra. And PS. You watched or are watching Killing Eve, right? It’s so f-cking good! PPS. Sarah’s review of Searching will be posted soon.
Yours in gossip,