The final installment of the “To All the Boys” series comes out Feb. 12, and we’re pretty emotional about it. What we know so far is that Lara Jean and Peter are about to go to prom, college and have an existential relationship crisis. It’s a classic plot about navigating those final moments of high school, so will we watch it? Of course — and you should, too.
These movies are different than just any typical teen rom-com. Rather than tiptoeing around race, it drenches the plot with Asian culture and biracial experiences in today’s age. Here are five reasons why you need to watch “To All the Boys: Always and Forever”
1. It cast ethnically appropriate actors.
The film industry has a long history of disregarding multiracial Asian roles, often leading to a film being “whitewashed” — when white actors are cast in non-white character roles or in roles which are scripted for non-white characters. Because of this, Jenny Han, the author of the “To All the Boys” books, made casting Asian Americans integral to the film. In her article written for the New York Times, she says, “One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter.” She responded, “Well, her spirit is Asian–American. That was the end of that.” Queen.
2. Peter Kavinsky.
He’s cute. Nuff said.
3. It shows multidimensional, diverse characters.
Representation isn’t enough — how diverse characters are portrayed matters. In the first movie, Lara Jean’s older sister Margot struggled to leave her family as she took off to college; parting with her role as the big sister of the house. There was tension between aspiration and duty; love and sacrifice. Meanwhile, Lara Jean was wrestling with her own issues, such as her unsettled grief from losing her mother that prevented her from opening up.
Now, she deals with major life decisions that determine her future and relationship. Each of the biracial character’s emotions, issues and actions are given light and portrayed with attention to detail and respect. In this story, they aren’t stereotyped — they are each their own individuals looking for something different.
4. It shows a biracial experience. Period.
In the mainstream, biracial Asian character’s ethnicity and culture aren’t even referenced — most of the time. The Covey sisters’ relationship with their Korean culture is a part of their characters. The movies highlight how important Korean culture is to them and it sheds light on a biracial Asian-white experience.
In their culture, food is what brings their family together and helps them carry on tradition — and it’s not downplayed how important it is to their lives. In the first movie, Yakult, a Japanese-Korean yogurt drink, becomes an integral part of the story. It also went viral. In “To All the Boys: Always and Forever,” they take a trip to Korea, no doubt to show more of their heritage and further expand upon their culture.
5. It’s a story ultimately about love.
What makes the films even better is that the plot is really about crushes, family and high school. It’s a story about “mixed” Asian girls, who experience love, loss and growth — and it’s told really well. These films don’t make Lara Jean and her sister’s identity a political point, instead, it tells a story of Asian Americans with care and respect.
That alone is enough to convince us.