Hollywood has long been lacking Asian faces in film. But recently there has been a surge in films revolving around Asian-American characters. “Crazy Rich Asians” and more recently “The Farewell” put the struggle between Chinese and American values on the big screen. As a second generation Chinese-American myself, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

So why is eastern and western culture so contrasting, not in Asian films, but rather in Asian-American films? In short, it’s because many Asian-Americans embody both of these two very opposite cultures.

This theme of inner conflict is probably one of the most truthful parts of Chinese-American movies. Well, excluding all the very realistic kung-fu fighting.

Chinese-Americans find themselves needing to prove their American-ness to Americans (and are even urged to do so by Asian American politician Andrew Yang) or prove their Chinese-ness to Mainland Chinese people to be accepted by either group. Yet we are the ones who understand both American values of individualism and ambition and Chinese ideals of filial responsibility and stability. We are expected to prioritize both conflicting ideals to fit in with classic Americana while simultaneously respecting our roots.

Therefore, to create a film about a Chinese-American character is to inherently explore that conflict.

Even older lesser-known films featuring Chinese-American leads display a similar identity conflict. 



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Adriane Kong

Adriane Kong is a student pursuing a B.A in Urban Studies at Columbia University. She hopes to combine art and design to promote the voices of marginalized groups.