Progress might be slow for diversity in Hollywood, but it’s still happening. This Sunday night, Awkwafina made history when she became the first Asian-American woman to win a Golden Globe Award for best actress. The win in the musical or comedy category was for her role in “The Farewell,” but people are still mad at critics for nominating the film as a ‘foreign’ picture. Read on to find out why.
Awkwafina’s award was the only win of the night for the movie “The Farewell.”
The actor plays a Chinese-American immigrant in “The Farewell, ”struggling with her cultural identity while trying to shield her grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) from a grim diagnosis.
“The Farewell,” an American film, was nominated for best foreign film, which ultimately went to “Parasite.”
Oddly enough, The Farewell is an American film that happened to be in a foreign language and was nominated for best foreign film. In an interview with Deadline, Wang expressed her discomfort: “it makes you question, well what does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be foreign?” she asked.
“In the Golden Globes, we’re considered a foreign language film. Now, technically that’s true. We are a foreign language film. They’re not calling it an international film or a foreign film. They’re saying it’s in a foreign language — but it just means that you’re then in a category with non-Americans.” she argued. “So The Farewell was in the category with a French film and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which is Korean. But in many ways, I think that I’m closer identity-wise to maybe Scorsese who makes films about the Italian-American experience and the immigrant experience, which is what I’m doing. It’s what The Farewell is. It’s about being an immigrant, being a hyphenate.” “To not be recognized that way is problematic. I think that a lot of these organizations are not prepared for it, because when the films are not made that challenge these rules, then you can’t have a conversation about it.”
Classifying The Farewell as foreign perpetuates the idea of immigrants as “the other.”
To imply that The Farewell, an inherently Asian-American film portraying the experience of a Chinese immigrant woman in America who is navigating the cultural differences between her homeland and the country she now lives in, is reductive and reinforces the idea that immigrants are not American. As Vice notes, Chinese immigrants now make up the third-largest foreign-born group in the United States today, and Chinese is the third most spoken language in the United States with 2.9 million people speaking it at home, based on the most recent census data from 2011.
This tweet, which has now gone viral, perfectly sums up why everyone is mad at the nomination.
The dramedy based on the director, Lulu Wang’s own story about her family keeping her grandmother’s cancer diagnosis a secret, goes beyond family issues. It’s also an immigration story that explores cultural identity through Awkwafina’s character, Billi, and Twitter has been ablaze since the nomination of the film as a ‘foreign’ picture was announced.
Awkwafina’s historic win nonetheless, caused a lot of joy on social media.
Hollywood’s diversity problem aside, Awkwafina’s win caused a lot of joy on Twitter, with fans celebrating not just the history, but the performance that won her the award in the first place.
And of course it wouldn’t be Twitter without some sarcastic jokes…
Naturally, it wouldn’t be Twitter if there weren’t a few jokes made at the expense of presenter Scarlett Johansson, who was accused of whitewashing in her film Ghost in the Shelland announced Awkwafina’s groundbreaking win.
With that, Awkwafina’s win, earned Twitter’s approval.
Like the actor said it herself in the pressroom at The Golden Globes, “”It feels incredible… but you want there to be more. I hope this is only the beginning.” Hopefully, Awkwafina’s history-making win will only open doors for other Asian actors —if studios are willing to fund films starring people of color, and if organizations like the HFPA and the Academy of Motion Pictures prove willing to vote for them.
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