2018 is the year of action. After years of large scale protest through movements like the #OscarsSoWhite boycotts and #MeToo movement, the entertainment industry has undoubtedly taken steps this year to bring minority voices and experiences to the forefront.
From changes in the voting and membership processes of the Recording Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to indictments against Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, and landmark film releases like that of Black Panther, we’re starting to see a culture shift. And some of the biggest strides we’ve seen were taken towards increased Asian and Asian-American representation in the media.
Take Crazy Rich Asians, for example. The rom-com is most notable for being the first Hollywood studio film starring a majority Asian cast in 25 years. Not only that, the film shattered records, becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy in 10 years. Crazy Rich Asians dispels the myth that films starring people of color don’t sell — a myth that paints diversity as a risky investment and keeps the industry stagnant.
Moreover, the film’s characters are nuanced, and have nothing to do with the stereotypes Hollywood has perpetuated from the industry’s inception. Media representation often defines public perception, and Asians and Asian Americans have been forced to deal with the effects of uncool, unsexy, and stereotypical portrayals of Asian characters in films and TV shows. Crazy Rich Asians is a step towards a film industry that includes and highlights Asian and Asian American talent.
Asians have also seen unprecedented success in the music industry this year. In November, Joji became the first Asian-born artist to reach the number one spot on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop charts with his album, “BALLADS 1.” Joji is affiliated with 88rising, a “hybrid management, record label, video production and marketing company” (according to founder Sean Miyashiro) that serves as a platform for Asian artists including Rich Brian, Keith Ape, and Higher Brothers, among others. This year, the company organized its first North American tour, which has seen success indicative of the potential Asian artists have to succeed in genres that have not traditionally welcomed them.
On the topic of disruption, 2018 has been a massive year for BTS. The K-Pop group became the first to perform in a US stadium, was listed as the second most streamed group on Spotify behind Imagine Dragons, and debuted their newest album at number one on the Billboard Hot 200 chart. Asian artists making a name for themselves in R&B/Hip-Hop is comparatively more unorthodox than BTS’ success in the K-Pop genre. Nonetheless, their global reach is unlike anything the music industry has ever seen before from a group of Asian artists.
It’s important to acknowledge that even now, not even close to all identities under the broad “Asian” umbrella have been represented equally on screen or in music. Injustice and discrimination against minorities in the entertainment industry and otherwise continue to exist. Yet, this year has shown us that monumental change requires monumental action, and that Asians, as well as other minority groups, have the potential to continue to thrive in the entertainment industry — and chances are, they will.