To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: How a Netflix Original Redefines Asian Stereotypes

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Courtesy of Netflix

Originally a book written by Jenny Han in 2014, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is soon to be released as a movie on August 17, 2018! Just like many popular TV shows such as Stranger Things or the controversial 13 Reasons Why, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before will be released as a Netflix Original.

The story surrounds Lara Jean Covey, a half-Caucasian, half-Korean teenage girl. Lara Jean has a list of five lovers consisting of boys that have either broken her heart or vice versa. In order to cope with her heartbreak, she composes love letters to each and every one of them. Writing letters to her ex-lovers helps her find peace and move on, but Lara Jean never sends them because the letters are really personal, and quite frankly, embarrassing. But of course, like every movie, something goes wrong. Lara Jean wakes up one morning to find that all of her letters have been sent to their designated lover.

Growing up, this was one of my favorite books. Not only is this plot line right up my ally, but the main character is also Asian. Being a POC teenage girl myself, I related to Lara Jean in many aspects. Unfortunately, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, is the first and only novel I’ve read with an Asian protagonist that does not perpetrate any kind of Asian stereotype.

The media has stereotyped Asians as nerdy, shy, and studious individuals. And although those are not bad qualities a person can have, being automatically labeled with those characteristics can damage a person’s ability to become their own unique person. Having other people automatically assume who I am based purely on my race is very displeasing, to say the very least. It took me a while to understand that my stereotype does not define me. I decide who I am.

Lara Jean is quite the opposite of any Asian stereotype; this is very rare in Hollywood since many movies with Asian POC applies the typical Asian stereotype. Many Asian POC youth would be inspired by this film to become their own person, despite their applied stereotype.

Lara Jean goes through a journey of self discovery while also embracing her Korean culture. Lara Jean doesn’t shy away from wearing traditional garments, even when she is the only one to do so. Having a character who embraces her culture without shame is so important. Many POC youth shy away from expressing their culture in front of their fellow peers because it is considered “abnormal.” It is considered a gigantic sign pointing out “I’m different” or “I’m a minority”. Hopefully, this movie will inspire Netflix viewers to proudly express their diverse cultures without fear of judgement. It sure has inspired me to do so.

 

-Tiffany Vuong