Dec 25, 2020

Minari and Merica

'Minari' (A24/Plan B Entertainment)

The message by Hollywood, and really the American culture at large, to Asian people in America has long been clear as day. "We don't give a damn what those papers say, you slit-eyes, or how much you contribute to our country and to our communities, or how proud you are to call yourselves Americans. You will never, ever, EVER be American ENOUGH in our eyes."

"Minari," it should be noted, is a film produced by Americans; filmed, directed, and edited by Americans; features a cast made up of mostly Americans, including the lead actor; and tells the story of a family of Americans trying to live out the American Dream. It's the type of tale that Americans of all stripes and colors love to tell about ourselves and our ancestors: an immigrant family striving to make good in the Land of Opportunity™.

And on a personal level: while my own family's story was set in urban Florida rather than rural Arkansas, many of the details from the plotline are deeply familiar to me: a multi-generational immigrant family working earnestly to become acclimated and to set down roots in our new surroundings, and aiming to achieve our own American Dreams in whichever form they come — complete with the ever-present cultural and language barriers that are part and parcel of every immigrant tale.

In shunting this quintessentially American story to the "Foreign Language" category, the Golden Globes aren't just depriving those involved in the making of this film a chance at winning the top prize. They're also declaring — in the subtlest of ways to most, but in a direct and visceral manner to not just Asians, but to anyone in America who grew up in a non-English speaking household — that their own stories and experiences don't matter; that they, too, will never, ever, EVER be American enough for them, either.