'The Farewell', written by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina, talks about a Chinese-American girl who visits her ill and dying grandmother in China. The family refuses to tell the grandma the truth about her health because they believe she will be happier. Throughout the movie, certain issues are addressed both lightly and heavily: money, vulnerability, pettiness, and cultural disparity.
I related to Billi (played by Awkwafina) completely when she confronted her mother about being more sensitive to the grandma's situation and the comfortability of expressing emotions. Growing up I was always told not to display my emotions in front of everyone as if I were in a zoo because that would allow people into my business and perceive me as weak. Crying and showing feelings of sadness were considered ridiculous and a waste of time. I think that because of this archaic mentality, a lot of people within the AAPI community struggle with being vulnerable, leading some to bury their emotions deep in their own conscious never to be processed. This form of thinking can lead to a plethora of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD – it's ultimately toxic for one's self and the people around them.
Yummy DimSum! upload.wikimedia.org
In the film, there is a scene in which the entire family gathered around for dinner and topics about money, followed by petty behavior, came about. I'm sure other cultures deal with this topic, but it's definitely apparent in a lot of Asian households. This topic revolves around the act of comparing children and their accomplishments, both future and past, to other relatives. Asian aunts and uncles have this never ending sibling rivalry that they fail to grow out of. Because of this, it carries into their adulthood and clouds the environment with great toxicity, poisoning and damaging the heart, mind, and soul of other people. This unnecessary competition of whose got it better reinforces negative parenting habits, which in turn affects the future generation. It is a never-ending cycle until someone realizes it and decides to break out of it – that's where we come in.
It seems that most traditional families see money as the end all be all. Without money means a loss of power and a lack of happiness. However, in this generation of Asians many no longer follow that traditional path of becoming a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. We no longer want to fit in that cookie cutter form of success and instead aim to create something new for ourselves, chase and define our own passions, and be unique. For me, happiness no longer means having all the riches in the world; it means all the memories and present moments I have and can create with all my loved ones. True happiness doesn't start with a dollar sign.
China or America? It's just different. upload.wikimedia.org
Last, but certainly not least, there is a huge cultural disparity between traditional Chinese versus American Born Chinese (ABC) individuals. While we are all capable of speaking our native tongue, the way we communicate to each other is still foreign. I don't think one's version of the culture is more superior than the other – to quote Billi, "It's just different."