Audiences tend to gravitate toward Asian entertainment that will be enjoyable for them to watch. But entertainment that carefully reflects an Asian experience is often separate from what we choose. More than ever, people are investing in the Asian experience through films and TV shows — it’s so important to have representation, but we must have a bigger commitment to how those characters are portrayed with their nuanced experiences. With the rise of more Asian representation in media, we’ve put together a list of a few of our favorite shows and movies that speak to the Asian experience and tell their stories with care.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”
We know it, you know it. It’s not just an Asian rom-com, it’s a universal rom-com. But it’s also one of the first Asian-led teen romance movies that paved the path to mainstream. It made a lot of people feel seen through a classic genre that never offered much inclusivity before. The story reflects growing up with Korean culture in America while experiencing heartbreak, love and high school. It delves into the dichotomy of two cultures and shows how beautiful it can be when allowed to flourish.
“Always Be My Maybe”
This movie challenges all stereotypes while remaining one of the funniest rom-coms. It breaks through the idea that Asians can only pursue STEM or are only overachievers; it shatters the idea that Asian women can’t be strong and sensitive at the same time. “Always Be My Maybe” is an Asian-American love story, and its power lies at its heart: Asian culture.
“Crazy Rich Asians”
To put it shortly, this massive movie gives us the “Cinderella” story we never had.
“Shadow and Bone”
“Shadow and Bone” is an epic fantasy show based on Leigh Bardugo’s trilogy of the same name. Unlike the books, the show chooses to demonstrate feeling like an outsider through its diverse characters, starting with the lead, Alina Starkov, who is “half-Shu” (a reference to being half-Asian). When she learns to accept who she is and all that she can be, her acceptance feels like it’s reaching all of us, too. Her identity search made the story richer, and it’s an interesting examination of racism in a teen-fantasy world. Most importantly, it gives Asians the chance to feel like the chosen one — to feel magical, powerful and seen.
“The Big Sick”
This rom-com explores the tensions between culture, duty and love. The story is centered on an Asian-American man who essentially wants to date white women and reject traditions of his Muslim-Pakistani heritage. While not entirely a story about acceptance of culture, that’s OK: it’s a desire that many like him share and that’s what makes it relatable.
A witty, emotional story told from the perspective of an Asian-American that nuances loss carefully, “The Farewell” shows the struggle of having a Chinese identity and an American identity separately. It examines the feeling of being a part of two worlds but feeling excluded at the same time.
As a story of the American dream, “Minari” depicts the experience of family and assimilation. It turns an Asian experience into an American experience, and the difference is subtle, but so important.
Representation of the Asian experience does not stop with these suggestions, but hopefully you’ll love some of them just as much as we do. Even if you don’t, you’ll love that they exist.