Youn Yuh-jung won the best supporting actress award at the 93rd Academy Award. However, many Asian movies are underrecognized in the U.S. Why is that?
“When it comes to the discussion of diversity in movies, there are many issues to look at, such as stereotypes of Asian characters, in addition to the ‘under-representativeness’ of Asian characters in American movies compared to the actual share of Asian-Americans in the country,” marked Stacey L. Smith, an associate professor of Communication at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which studies inequality issues in movies, including race, in a written interview with the Dong-A Ilbo.
Professor Smith who proposed for the first time in 2016 the concept of an inclusion rider that provides for a certain level of diversity in casting and production staff released a report that analyzes the diversity of content on Netflix in January this year. She says efforts that go beyond the voice to increase the share of Asian actors in Hollywood to enhance diversity are needed. “I am focusing on the incorrect description of Asian characters based on their stereotypes.”
‘Soonja’ in “Minari” played by Youn Yuh-jung was successful as she was not simply described as a typical Asian woman who only sacrifices herself for her children. This differentiates the movie from others based on orientalism, such as wealthy people who only care about money (“Crazy Rich Asians”) or nerds (“A Serious Man”). “The grandmother in “Hillbilly Elegy,” is a competitor of “Minari,” depicts a two-dimensional character who takes care of her children as a woman. Meanwhile, Soonja has unique characteristics unlike a typical Asian woman imagined by Americans,” movie critic Jeon Chan-il said.
How can other “Minari”-like movies be showcased? “There aren’t enough Asian directors, writers, or producers behind the camera,” said Professor Smith. “There should more Asians in the movie industry who play creative roles.” As black and Latin American producers create Hollywood films to overcome prejudices about themselves, the composition of movie production teams should change. “Director Lee Isaac Chung of “Minari” chose Japanese animation movie “Your Name” for his next movie, which shows his Asian identity,” movie critic Jung Ji-wook said. “There should be more Asian movie creators in the American film industry.”