With the successful international debut of Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved” and the summer mega-hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” some may wonder what it takes for Asian actresses to make it in Hollywood. After all, it should come as no surprise that nearly all production companies tried whitewashing the two films–and we’re glad that didn’t happen. The authors for both books remained resilient, as they eventually found teams who agreed to help produce the movies while believing in the authentic vision for Asian representation.
Think about it: An Asian female not playing a mere object of romantic interest or the sidekick, but instead playing the lead? Do you have any idea the impact this will have on young Asian girls? Making them believe that they have the ability to be and are in fact already the main star of their own lives? My younger self would have learned that my features were beautiful as they were and that I didn’t have to play pretend and hide them with my hair or makeup.
To explore this idea, I talked to Indonesian actress Savira Windyani about it, who played DJ Lexx Putri in 2018’s “Unfriended: Dark Web.”
Windyani says that with the recent debut of the two films with Asian female leads, that we are getting somewhere in Hollywood. Especially with the films being rom-coms and not having any martial arts in it, it’s a pretty big deal. In the film industry, Asian actors have more chance at being casted compared to their female counterparts, but it’s still extremely difficult for them to seal the deal if the film does not involve martial arts. So imagine what a huge deal it is for Asian actresses to win lead roles in mainstream romantic comedies! Despite the very narrow chances, Windyani believes that putting more contents in the like out there will eventually open up the field for the better.
Being in Hollywood’s film industry that still lacks Asian representation, Windyani also pointed out having to bear with the very shallow understanding of ‘the Asian’ which still remains at its infancy; which is full of misconceptions and prejudices. The Hollywood mindset of Asians as consisting only of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese is a classic. Windyani recounted being told that she couldn’t play an Asian role because she was “too tan.” Apart from the terribly racist aspect of the remark, let us all dwell upon how absurd it sounds. Has Hollywood ever rejected a white actor because they were “too white” or “too pink” to play a white character? Imposing a strict, not to mention ridiculous, definition of what they think of as Asian and denying an identity that one has lived with her whole life? Please someone tell me this is a joke.
Nevertheless, there is hope. Asian representation in Hollywood is progressing one step at a time, slowly but surely. Sandra Oh being nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress at the most recent Emmy’s is exemplary. Although I can’t deny feeling a little salty that she was the first Asian female to be nominated when Asian actresses have been around as long as the awards have existed, achievements like this is why we should not give up. We have taken the first step—and surely, more are on its way.
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