Film Forward

This Viral Twitter Thread Shows Why Movies Like 'Crazy Rich Asians' Are So Important

"You've never seen a cast like this in Hollywood."

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

The new movie Crazy Rich Asians made a splash over the weekend, claiming No. 1 at the box office with $25.2 million in North American theaters. The film is earning praise from critics (with a 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and starting an important conversation about the importance of onscreen representation.

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One emotional Twitter thread contributed to that conversation on Friday, and went viral over the weekend. It comes from Kimberly Yam, editor of Asian Voices for HuffPost. She starts the thread with a photo of the tattoo on her wrist, which she later reveals is her family's name.

Yam describes witnessing her third-grade classmates mocking her father when he delivered Chinese food to her school. "You don't want to be Chinese anymore," she writes of herself.

Yam goes on to describe other instances in which she faced ridicule for her Asian heritage — from being told her eyes have an "ugly shape" to seeing fellow high schoolers dress up as "Asian tourists" for Halloween. She says she "rejected" her culture, but changed her mind when she met other Asian students in college who had "pride" in their background.

She ends the thread by describing the emotional experience of watching Crazy Rich Asians for the first time, writing, "You've never seen a cast like this in Hollywood. Everyone is beautiful. You're so happy you're Chinese."

Yam's thread has received hundreds of thousands of retweets and likes, with many users sharing how much they relate to her experience, and emphasizing how important it is for people to see themselves represented on screen.

As Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu pointed out on Twitter earlier this month, it's the first major film in 25 years "to center an Asian American's story," following The Joy Luck Club in 1993. She quoted director Jon M. Chu by saying that the film "is more than a movie, it's a movement."

Last week, three TV writers recognized the film's significance and bought tickets for strangers to see it in theaters. Writer Teresa Hsiao emphasized how important it is for non-Asian people to see the film as well, explaining that watching people who are different from you on screen often means that "they cease to feel different." 

She and Yam both used the hashtag #RepresentationMatters.

Cover image via  Kathy Hutchins I Shutterstock

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