Highlighting Asian Creatives in TV and Film
May is Asian Heritage Month, a time to highlight and celebrate Asian culture. Here’s a list of our top five TV Shows and Films by Asian Creatives you have to stream right now:
The Half Of It (2020)
“The Half Of It” tells the story of Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a straight-A friendless Chinese-American high school senior who makes extra cash by writing papers for her classmates. She reluctantly agrees to help football job Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) write love letters for his crush, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), the girl Ellie also has a secret crush on. As times goes on, Ellie and Paul form a special platonic kind of love you root for.
The film features a queer Chinese American protagonist – you don’t see this often in mainstream media. Chu created this film very specifically because of something she was trying to say to her mom. It’s a film reflecting her own life. “It’s not like my journal. It’s more like, OK, I’m creating this character… until they feel real to me. I’m going to send them off into the world, to either do things that I’m too scared to do, or to have things befall them that sound like my personal nightmare and then see how they merge”. “The Half Of It” does a phenomenal job with Asian queer representation and is a must-see this month. Watch the trailer here.
“Never Have I Ever” (2020)
“Never Have I Ever” is a new comedy-drama from Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher starring Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi Vishwakumar, a south Asian girl who’s trying to figure out her Indian identity while trying to adopt a “regular high school experience”. This 10-episode series is a direct reflection of Kaling’s childhood. Breaking Asian stereotypes is something Kaling always achieves with flying colours. Click here to read our full feature story on the series.
“Always Be My Maybe” (2019)
If you haven’t already watched “Always Be My Maybe”, now’s the perfect time. A romantic comedy written by comedian Ali Wong and Randall Park (Wong and Park also star in the film) tells the story of a friendship turned romance. The childhood sweethearts have a falling out, however when they meet again in 15 years, sparks fly.
The film’s Asian American characters aren’t the traditional successful doctor or lawyer type we’re so used to seeing Asians casted as. Rather than succeeding in finance or a STEM field, Wong succeeds in the creative world of culinary arts. Wong strays even further as a stoner who never made it past high school. Fully developed depictions of Asian Americans are rare but just as important. If you’re looking for a sweet romcom to end the night off with, this is the one. Click here to watch the trailer.
“Kim’s Convenience” (S4, 2020)
Season 4 of this hit series is now available on Netflix. “Kim’s Convenience” is a television series centered around a Korean-Canadian family, the Kims, who run a convenience store in downtown Toronto. The sitcom began in 2016 but was actually based on a theatre show. The play lasted for seven years before being adapted into a television show.
It’s “important for viewers to see well-written and well-rounded roles for Asians. [We] aren’t playing stereotypes that begin and end with one trait. They are three dimensional characters with wants, with hopes, with needs, with fears. And that’s what’s so exciting about playing them as an actor of color, because we’ve been so cut off from playing real people”, says Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays Mr. Kim (or “Appa”, meaning father in Korean). With full Asian representation and the authenticity of real Asian stories shining through, it’s a no brainer why this show deserves to be highlighted.
“Four More Shots Please!” (S2, 2020)
More commonly known as the Indian “Sex in the City”, “Four More Shots Please!” takes place in South Mumbai. The show follows four young woman in their 20s and 30s: Damini, an investigative journalist (Sayani Gupta); Umang, a bisexual gym trainer (Bani J); Anjana, a lawyer and divorced mother (Kirti Kulhai); and Siddhi, the aimless single child of a wealthy family (Maanvi Gagroo). Season 1 came out on Amazon Prime early 2019 and due to popular demand – it was one of the top three Indian Amazon original series in 2019, Season 2 came out late April 2020 and has already been the most watched original Indian series this year.
To put it bluntly, “Four More Shots Please” is a huge step forwards towards normalizing sex and sexual relations driven by lustful women in the Indian mainstream television world. “The four women grapple with complex gender issues, from the country’s barely scratched corporate glass ceiling to homophobia, mental health, and taboos around female sexuality”, reports the New York Times. While the show has gotten backlash from their more conservative viewers, the stars of the show had a couple words to share. “Films and TV have always shown women from a very male perspective… I have a problem when people think the show is not aligning with their idea of feminism. It is a pluralistic concept, so it will have different meanings for you and me. But at the core of it is the agency of the female”, says Gagroo. “It challenges the Indian audience to confront its collective fantasies and anxieties, says Sharma. If you haven’t already, take a look at the trailer here.