To all the boys I’ve loved before

This film is my guilty pleasure. I know it’s targeted to a YA audience but so was “The Hunger Games”, along with several other YA novels that were adapted to films, (enjoyed by many adults). Have teens grown up too fast and adults refused to grow up? Probably! Perhaps I can still enjoy watching a YA film because they usually focus on the sweetness of first love vs the jaded version of adult modern romance which seems to focus on: fetishes, polyamory, addictions, crimes and deception.

I haven’t read the Lara Jean books written by Jenny Han that inspired these films, but I’m proud that her stories, featuring a bi-racial, half-Korean heroine have become very popular. Finally, an Asian heroine is allowed to represent her unique experience, without being stereotyped or marginalized as a token, supporting “side kick” character. I liked all the actors in this film and thought they were perfectly cast, except for the casting of Lara Jean’s older sister, Margot. Although the actress that portrayed her was beautiful and she looked somewhat biracial, (I didn’t think she looked part- Asian). I thought she looked predominantly Italian/Latina, maybe passably Philippine. I wondered why she was selected, her presence threw off the illusion that the actors who portrayed the sisters were in the same family, but at least she wasn’t seen in the film very much. Now that I think about it, none of the daughter’s resembled their Caucasian father either.

Janel Parrish plays Margot, she doesn’t look Asian to me, she looks Latina. Oh well? She was born in Hawaii but I don’t know her actual ethnicity. Details like this make a difference, not all Asians can just be grouped together, we’re distinct, not all the same.

While searching for images for this post, I found collaged images online labeled, Dream Cast- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I like the cast choices in the first image below, but I’m so glad the actors in the second image weren’t chosen! If they had been I would’ve made a Seoul Sister Films, “Where are the Asians” movie trailer parody!

This cast looks right, the female is actually Asian, maybe too Asian. Does she have to look biracial to be acceptable to a mainstream audience?
No!!! Lara Jean, Margot and Kitty don’t look Asian at all! WTF? Yuck!
The iconic scene from “Sixteen Candles”
Lara Jean brings up “Sixteen Candles” in this scene.

I grew up during the 80’s, and this film reminded me of that relatively innocent time. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” recreated the John Hughes teen film genre very well, without stealing from it, (it wasn’t a fan fiction film like, “Stranger Things” which blatantly steals from classic 80s films), instead it added the romanticism of Jane Austen’s novels in my opinion. The film’s storyline has been done many times before, in many other films but “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” added more character development that kept the story interesting. I definitely want to see Part 2 and Part 3, it makes sense that they’d film them both together for momentum and continuity.

Impromptu photo supposedly taken on the set of the first film. I love the chemistry between Lana Condor and Noah Centineo.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” Part 2 trailer looks cute, I wonder why the actor was changed who portrays the new love interest, John Ambrose McClaren, I think it was to add even more diversity, although this film has more diversity than most mainstream North American films. https://youtu.be/ZAKS9YtlnsU

They’re so adorable together but Lana Condor already has a boyfriend. Many compare Noah Centineo to actor, Mark Ruffalo, I agree with the comparison. https://youtu.be/qGP0FRGtfgA

I wish I had positive images of attractive Asians in films and media, when I was growing up. The film mentions, “Sixteen Candles” (the character, Lara Jean loves this film) but ironically in “Sixteen Candles” the only Asian character, Long Duck Dong was a blatantly stereotyped, foreign exchange student. Well at least the representation of Asians is improving ever so slowly. I actually wish Lara Jean was portrayed as being 100% Asian and not biracial, but as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/02/06/384307677/whats-so-cringe-worthy-about-long-duk-dong-in-sixteen-candles

8 Comments

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. I didn’t like ”Crazy Rich Asians” overall, despite the all-Asian cast mostly because I didn’t like the focus on extreme wealth, (I think the wealth divide is destroying our planet). I didn’t read Kevin Kwan’s books that the film was adapted from, but it seems like it’s the basic Cinderella/handsome prince story, which is another turn off for me as a feminist. I don’t think most men have an authentic understanding of how women actually feel and think but maybe I’m out of touch, maybe many women still want the fairytale of marrying into old money. The film portrays the heroine walking away from the charming prince’s money, but it’s a predictable cliche, she ends up with the him anyway.
      What I did like was the normalcy of having an all-Asian cast, this rarely happens in Hollywood except for Joy Luck Club and Memoirs of a Geisha. I think it’s a positive step to show that Asians are relatable humans just like everyone else, not stereotypical nerds, gangsters or Kung fu fighters etc only.

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    1. Hi Jeff, yes you’re totally right. I was going to mention it but somehow forgot to. The Long Duck Dong character was not only a nerd and sex obsessed, he date raped the passed out drunk girl which the main hero basically gave him to, to rape. It’s the most disturbing part of the film that was only noticed decades later. John Hughes and a Hollywood has sexist issues and a skewed sense of morality. Thanks for your comment.

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  1. I really do love this film, JUST for her being Asian, in a way that if she was white I would think this movie is just promoting “boys will be boys” type of ideologies. I love how all the siblings are clearly from different parts of Asia, it makes me wonder if they had the same dad! I also like how the main guy isn’t the stereotypical Asian-parent-approved academic. However, I do think he has some boundary issues with his ex and I don’t really like how he enabled the ex so much back when she was a bully, one of these guys that’ll just be a part of the problem until he’s dumped by the mean girl. But besides that, this movie is super fun if you watch it as a chickflick, which it is! Ugh I overanalyze everything

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    1. Hi Justine, I like you analyzing skills, I think we should all be paying attention to what films are subliminally saying. I agree with you, the main male character, did enable his ex’s bullying and couldn’t see that she was a jerk even after she dumped him. I guess that was his character flaw. I didn’t like how the father kept praising Lara Jean after she became “popular” as if being a bookish introvert was a bad thing either. I don’t think the sisters had the same fathers or mothers! Haha! They all looked so very different. With all it’s flaws I still am looking forward to the next two films. Thanks for your comment.

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      1. Me too! Most chick flicks are problematic but at least this film has Asians in it! So funny they had a white dad and everyone’s 100% asian! Also love how many types of Asians are represented by the siblings(weird but funny) And the dad is too much! I gotta say I like the character but he’s just too much of a stereotypical Chad

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      2. Yes, it’s funny but also weird, a kind of subconscious racism to group all Asians together, that’s very typical of Hollywood to not notice the difference in biracial features and the distinct differences within Asian cultures. I’m going to write a post about that, thanks for reminding me. Ha the dad! He means well, I like his character too despite his Chad approach to life.

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