By Sue Van Phan
I remember growing up watching a lot of Asian and Asian American movies. One of the Asian actresses that stood out to me was Michelle Yeoh. If I remember correctly, she starred in a movie with Jackie Chan called, “Super Cop”, which was a Hong Kong action film. I was intrigued by her martial arts skills and for being one of the few Asian actresses that knows the art of martial arts. The fact that Michelle does her own action stunts makes me realize how dedicated and disciplined she was in portraying a fearless and strong character of Asian descent.
Michelle Yeoh is a Malaysian actress born in Ipoh, Malaysia. She started gaining fame in Hong Kong during the 1990s. Before Michelle was known as an actress, she won the Miss Malaysia Beauty Pageant in 1983 when she was 20 years old.
Another well-known movie that she did was, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” directed by Ang Lee. The movie even premiered at one of the most prestigious film festivals, Cannes Film Festival in France. In this movie, Michelle played a heroic warrior named Shu Lin. Throughout the movie, she has to delive a magical sword to safe keeping, however, the sword got stolen and she has to go through a journey in search for the missing sword. Though this movie was played by Asian actors and actresses, it still caught the attention of different kinds of audiences around the world. Since this movie was an all Asian cast, the director made sure that he translated the characters’ dialogue to English subtitles as close to the Chinese dialogue meanings as possible because that way the Western audiences could fully and genuinely understand the story.
Looking back I’ve never given much thought to Asian or Asian American representation in the media industry due to the fact that I was still young. As mentioned before, I was intrigued overall by Michelle and that she does her own martial arts scenes in the movies she was in. There were also not many actresses that knew how to do martial arts as genuinely as Michelle did. Maybe that was one of the facts that caught so many audiences’ attentions globally.
The fact that Michelle was able to play all of the characters outstandingly because she was authentically herself. Whenever I saw Michelle on the screen, she gave off this persona of a strong & independent woman that is dedicated and disciplined in her crafts. In a sense, her persona is what I thought Asian and Asian American cultures would be like.
Overall, creating Asian and Asian American stories are just as important as other stories that are being told which mostly revolve around characters that are not Asian or Asian American. But
every Asian and Asian American has a unique and rich story to tell. The fact that there are not enough stories about Asian and Asian American cultures is really saddening. That means most people that are not of Asian or Asian American descent will come to a conclusion that those two cultures are the same, but in reality it is not what it seems to be. I hope that in the near future there will be more stories about Asian and Asian American cultures because it will definitely broaden more people’s perspectives and show that Asian and Asian Americans are more than physical features and what meets the eye.