Minari is an American Film
Maybe I'm tired from wrestling with my 9-month-old 4-5 times a day while changing his diaper, maybe it's the pandemic, but I read a couple of things last night that really had me fuming out of annoyance and frustration. Don't worry, I'm much calmer now as I write this, but let's discuss. The Golden Globes will not consider Minari for Best Picture, because it is mostly in Korean, even though it is an American story, about the American dream, set in America, directed by an American, produced by an American company, and starring an American. I'll get into this more below. As I looked into this, I came across Schulz Saves America on Netflix, in which Andrew Schulz apparently makes some serious Anti-Asian racist comments. What got to me more upset was seeing all the praise the series was getting, which means people either still don't recognize blatant and harmful racism, and/or despite all the anti-racism discussions that took place as a result of the BLM protests this summer, Asian Americans are still invisible in the race talks. Just think about how we oft talk about Kamala Harris as a Black woman, but rarely as an Asian American/South Asian American woman. A lot of people have said what needs to be said on this, but I want to discuss the cultural identity impact here.
Let's first talk about Minari and the Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has shut Minari out from being able to compete for Best Picture. Per the current Golden Globes rules, any film with at least 50% non-English dialogue goes into the foreign language category, and movies that fall into this category cannot win best comedy/musical or drama. Clearly these rules are painfully outdated and out of touch. But does anyone else find it ironic that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has set up a standard that basically says English is the standard and you can't win Best Picture if you're a foreign film?
There are a few problems here, summed up well by others:
These rules perpetuate the narrative that unless you speak English and are white, you're a foreigner in this country. But as Min Jin Lee pointed out, aside from indigenous people, EVERYONE in America came here either by choice or force. Let's also remember that we do not have an official language here in the U.S. English is not the official language of the United States of America and in fact there are at least 350 different languages spoken in the United States.
It's a punch in the gut every time we have to fight for our "Americanness." What is more American than an immigrant family, moving to the U.S. to create a better life for themselves? More specifically, this movie is about a Korean family that moves to rural Arkansas in search of the American dream. It's a Korean American story, it's an Asian American story, it's an American story period.
It just feels like this shouldn't still be happening in 2020. It's these types of issues and narratives that can cause identity issues for Asian Americans. Many Asian American kids rebel in one way or another against their culture, because they don't want to be treated as outsiders, but inevitably we all wind up living in this not American enough, not Asian enough limbo. I know I've struggled with my identity for these reasons. It's frustrating, and I'm tired of explaining what and who an American is. If we actually learned Asian American history in school, we would know that there is no "America" without Asian Americans. Aside from indigenous people, we've been here as long as everyone else. I highly encourage everyone read The Making of Asian America a History by Erika Lee. It certainly opened up my eyes to so much I didn't even know about my own history.
It's also just incredibly small-minded to say that if you don't speak English 100% of the time then you're a foreigner in this country. Many Americans speak more than one language at home. In fact, we need to recognize the importance of being at least bilingual. Knowing more than one language opens up our world, and is good for our brain health.
Then there are putzes like Andrew Schulz who are spreading anti-Asian racism and calling it comedy. I haven't watched his Netflix show and I don't plan to, because the quotes I've seen from his stand-up show regarding COVID-19, or as he refers to it, the "Asian parasite," are enough to put me off. We've already seen around the world the rise in racist attacks against Asians throughout the pandemic. Schulz is ignorantly (or maybe intentionally, I don't know) feeding that fire with all his anti-Asian racism. He tries to point the finger at the Chinese government and says "I love Asians in general...Asians are the best," followed by a list of some of the most famous Asians plus Mickey Rooney. I don't understand whose America he's saving, because it clearly doesn't include Asian Americans.
In June, Netflix curated a Black Lives Matter collection, as a response to the BLM protests, but clearly there is still a lot more to learn about diversity, inclusivity, and who America is.
As Gold House states in their social media post, which I shared above, change doesn't happen overnight, but there are steps that can be taken immediately, as well as continued learning and committing to inclusivity as it evolves. Let's make history, not live in it.
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