Jenny Han's novel "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" is becoming a movie and as an Asian American girl, I couldn't be more excited. For those unfamiliar with Han’s young adult novel, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" centers around a 16-year-old half Korean, half Caucasian girl named Lara Jean Song Covey (played by actress Lana Condor) and how her life transforms when her secret box of love letters written to former crushes gets mailed out. The novel has two sequels, "P.S. I Still Love You" and "Always and Forever, Lara Jean," the latter of which was released earlier this year.
Now, it's not just because "To All the Boys" is fulfilling all my high school dreams of my favorite book coming to the big screen that makes me ecstatic. This movie signifies so much more because for the first time in a really long time, we're going to see an Asian American teenage girl as the LEAD in a film targeted for young people. That's pretty rare today.
Now here’s why this is important.
Growing up as an Asian American girl myself, there has always been a lack of Asian American representation on the big and small screen for young people like me. Watching predominantly white TV shows and films with limited Asian American actors was so normal to me as a kid that I didn't even notice that there weren't any Asian American actors in the starring roles. Renting movies from Blockbuster, flipping through the TV channels, and going to the movie theaters showed little to no signs of Asian American actors either, and I kinda just assumed that the acting world wasn't one that most Asian Americans were interested in.
The only film with an Asian American lead that I do recall watching as a kid is the Disney Channel TV movie, "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior," starring Brenda Song, which came out in 2006. Even though that was 11 years ago, it’s sad to report that there hasn’t been that much of an increase with Asian Americans in starring roles since, despite the popularity of the film.
Another well-known movie starring Asian American actors includes the classic, "The Joy Luck Club." But that film was released nearly 25 years ago and falls in a different category and genre. Aka probably not the type of movie my 14-year-old self would be interested in seeing with her friends on a Friday night (Not that it's a bad thing, I'm just saying "The Joy Luck Club" probably isn't one of those go-to films for kids and teens).
"To All the Boys" is that Friday night go-to movie. Now I know the film hasn't actually been released yet, but if the movie is anything like the book, then it will be relatable, heartwarming, and a precious love story that kids, teenagers, and young adults alike will find entertaining and enjoyable, even if they don't identify as Asian American.
When I was a young girl, I wanted to be an actress. But my dreams of becoming an actress were distant, as there wasn’t anyone in the movies who really looked like me. The limited Asian Americans who were in the movies were mostly the characters you forgot about, the boring best friend or the nerd who had a few comedic one-liners. They were never the girl-next-door. Seeing an Asian American lead on the big screen, I hope "To All the Boys" inspires Asian American girls and boys to realize that their potential is limitless and that they can truly be anything they want. That’s the best Hollywood ending I could ask for.