Producers Wanted to Whitewash To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
It almost seems silly to think that producers could have attempted to whitewash a movie like Crazy Rich Asians, but that is the sad reality. And as it turns out, that same “suggestion” was made to the fantastic Netflix movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which is currently slaying on streaming.
Jenny Han’s novel, upon which the Netflix movie is based, is fantastic and also visually shows an Asian teenager girl on the cover. When I read it I could feel my dark heart stir, remembering what it was like to be young and completely, overwhelmingly in love with Emma Watson. I mean … with someone. It is the type of story that easily lends itself to adaptation and I was not shocked when I saw Netflix picked it up. However, like every story of representation, just because we did get it, does not mean the journey here was an easy one.
In an essay with the New York Times, Han revealed that almost every production company that wanted to adapt her best-selling book into a movie wanted to whitewash it in some way. Something that Han, obviously, would never do because of what this story not only meant to her as a writer, but what it would mean for other Asian teenagers who watched it.
What would it have meant for me back then to see a girl who looked like me star in a movie? Not as the sidekick or romantic interest, but as the lead? Not just once, but again and again? Everything. There is power in seeing a face that looks like yours do something, be someone. There is power in moving from the sidelines to the center. Having a book made into a film is a career-changing moment for authors. But authors have little control over any aspect of the moviemaking process. Once you hand over the rights, no one is obligated to listen to anything you say.
“I ended up deciding to work with the only production company that agreed the main character would be played by an Asian actress,” Han wrote. “No one else was willing to do it. Still, I was holding my breath all the way up until shooting began because I was scared they would change their minds. They didn’t.”
And thank goodness they didn’t. Just thinking about the most recent television that I watched, Insatiable features an adopted Chinese character who is revealed to have shark fangs for teeth in a “comedic moment” during it’s “satire.” Thankfully, we have this to wash down that horrible representation.
(via TNYT, image: Netflix)
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