"The Half of It" Subverts Rom-Com Expectations And I Love It
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"The Half of It" Subverts Rom-Com Expectations And I Love It

Warning: lots of spoilers ahead.

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"The Half of It" Subverts Rom-Com Expectations And I Love It
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-yhF7IScUE&t=2s

If you know me, you know I am a huge fan of coming of age films. When I saw the trailer for Alice Wu's "The Half of It," I knew I had to watch.

One of the best parts of this film is the way it subverts the audience's heteronormative expectations of what should happen in a romantic comedy. When watching the first third of the movie, I am sure that many people assumed that Ellie was reluctantly helping Paul write love letters to his crush, Aster, because she had a crush on Paul. The storyline of a girl being in love with her male best friend and the boy liking another girl has been repeated in thousands of films, so naturally, audiences expect this same story to play out in "The Half of It." What we end up getting is a story where the girl, Ellie, is actually in love with the other girl in this love triangle. She's not helping Paul write love letters to Aster to be a supportive friend, she's doing it because she has a crush on Aster and is using it as a way to get close to her.

Not only does "The Half of It" give young women wonderful lesbian representation, but it also provides representation for Chinese-Americans. Throughout the film, we can see Ellie speaking in Mandarin with her father and helping him deal with the financial struggles he was facing as an immigrant. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Ellie is talking to Paul about how moving to Squahamish was supposed to be temporary because her father has a doctorate in engineering and should have been able to quickly move up in the company. However, his limited English and the fact that he earned his doctorate in China prevented him from ever getting a better paying job. Unfortunately, many immigrants face these issues where their intelligence is questioned because they do not speak fluent English and their degree is made to seem less valuable because it was not earned in a predominantly white country.

The children of immigrants often have to work in order to help their families pay the bills, and we see this same situation in Wu's film. Ellie has a side gig where she charges to write her classmate's essays for them and then uses this money to help support herself and her father.

Another aspect of the film that I love is how it shows that religion should not be used as an excuse to be homophobic. Multiple times throughout the film we are made aware of how important going to church is to this community, which made me nervous while watching because I was certain that at some point, a character would use the Bible as justification for homophobia. My suspicions were confirmed when Paul told Ellie that being gay is a sin and she would go to hell for having a crush on Aster. I was heartbroken for Ellie in this scene because by this point in the film, her and Paul had become close friends and he was willing to turn on her because of her sexuality. Thankfully, Paul comes to his senses and realizes that he was completely wrong and that Ellie's sexuality does not change who she is. At the end of the film there is a really great scene in the church where Paul stands up in front of everyone and admits that he always thought there was always one "right" way to love, but that he found out there are many more. He also said that he had been thinking about how horrible it must be to have to spend your entire life pretending to be someone you are not and that he does not want to be the type of person that stops loving someone for being gay.

It has always gotten under my skin hearing Christians claim that they cannot be allies to the LGBTQ+ community because it is a "sin," so I was glad to see that Paul was able to come to the realization that it is not true. I hope that this film is able to reach Conservative Christians and convince them that they should not be using their religion to spread hate.

Overall, "The Half of It" was a great watch. If you've been looking for a coming of age film to lift your spirits during quarantine, then I definitely recommend this one.

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