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‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Validates Viola Davis’ Words About the Importance of Opportunity for WOC Actresses

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

With conversations about the future of indie cinema always seeing it as daunting, the slow but solid success of DANIELS’ (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) strange but beautiful film Everything Everywhere All at Once is a bright spot.

Over the weekend, according to Variety, Everything Everywhere All at Once added $5.5 million to its box office, bringing it to $38.2 million against a $25 million budget. Right now, it is on track to surpass Uncut Gems as A24’s most successful film, financially, in North American gross (Lady Bird and Hereditary take that title with worldwide box office).

As I watched EEAAO, it was not just an emotional immigrant story and mother-daughter tale, but also, accidentally, a love letter to Michelle Yeoh as an actress. Yeoh has been in the industry since the mid ’80s and has been in multiple incredible films, not limited to but including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yet, despite being one of the most well known and important action film stars in the world, she has gotten zero Academy Award nominations.

In fact, despite the 10 Academy Award nominations Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did get, none of them were for acting. We have seen Asian talent very often ignored in acting categories, a trend that is slowly changing, but when it comes to Best Actress, there has still only ever been one non-white actress to win that honor. Since the first Oscars ceremony in 1929, the only AAPI actresses nominated for Best Actress are Keisha Castle-Hughes, who is of Māori heritage, in 2003 and Merle Oberon in 1935 (Oberon lied about her ethnicity and race for most of her career).

Meanwhile, Luise Rainer won her second Oscar playing the role of O-Lan in 1937’s The Good Earth, with yellowface.

Side note: And if you want to laugh bitterly, if you look on the list of Asian Best Actresses winners, it includes actresses like Vivien Leigh because she was born in the British Raj and might be part Armenian. Might be. Armenians do not fit into the Black/white dichotomy of American race, but to act as though Vivien Leigh is an actress who has earned the title of “First actress of Asian descent to win the Best Actress award” is laughable at best.

Viola Davis said, “The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity.” That went through my mind when I watched Yeoh talk about getting the role of Evelyn Wang.

As she tears up, Yeoh says, “This is something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. That’s going to give me the opportunity to show my fans, my family, my audience, what I’m capable. To be funny, to be real, to be sad. Finally, someone understood that I can do all these things.” It is a truly iconic, masterwork of a performance, and it would take something truly, equally career defining from another older actress to be even close to as award-worthy as Michelle Yeoh. This was an opportunity, and she took it, perfected it, and I hope she is rewarded. She fucking earned it.

(image: A24)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.