CADY ABE WRITES — In preparation of the Holiday season, Netflix released the new Christmas movie, Love Hard, on November 5th, 2021. The movie premiered with an all-star cast, most notably comedian Jimmy Yang and The Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev as the two romantic leads. Amid all the large steps forward in Asian representation in recent years with Crazy Rich Asians, Parasite, Minari, Shang-Chi, and Eternals, Hollywood is beginning to break the bamboo ceiling of Orientalist views in mainstream media.
At first glance, the movie almost seems like a step back in Asian representation in Hollywood. From the trailer, Jimmy Yang’s character, Josh Lin, is depicted as an “unattractive” male, further pushing the Orientalist view of desexualizing and feminizing Asian men. The premise of the movie centers around Josh “catfishing” Nina Dobrev’s character, Natalie, by using the picture of a conventionally attractive male on a dating app. However, Love Hard pleasantly subverted my original negative expectations. The movie displays a diversity of Asian characters with different personalities, hobbies, and physical attractiveness, showing that Asian people and Asian roles are real people not tied down to stereotypes.
In an interview with POPSUGAR, Jimmy Yang disclosed that, “This role wasn’t written to be a particular ethnicity.” Love Hard clearly subscribes to that notion as the movie did not emphasize any Asian stereotypes and in fact depicted the Lin family in a very normalized and comforting way. Josh, who is shown to be an aspiring candle maker, displays a kind heart, and many soft and loveable attributes of a desirable and handsome partner. On the other hand, Josh’s older brother, played by Glee star, Harry Shum Jr, is known for his “sexiness,” conventional physical attractiveness, athleticism, and manliness, further breaking down the stigma that Asian men are not attractive and feminine.
Love Hard provides a breadth of diversity of characters, and shows that people, no matter their interests or appearance, are deserving of love. In addition, Josh Lin’s ethnicity is not used as the butt of a joke, or even the reason he did not get many dating app matches. As a portion of the movie, Natalie compliments Josh’s eyes and physical appearance, and teases him for his almost serial killer looking profile as he poses with an axe and rope. The man that Josh uses to “catfish” Natalie is played by Darren Barnet, who is a mixed White and Asian American actor known for his attractive body and face. The movie never makes note of Jimmy Yang’s ethnicity in a negative light, and perhaps critics who see Josh’s difficulty dating as a product of his race harbors internalized orientalism. The movie provides a new refreshing view of Jimmy Yang as he plays a character he has not portrayed in the past.
Overall, Love Hard is the classic love story we crave in this holiday season, filled with modern people realizing that love is about true connections and not surface-level attractions.
Cady Abe is a new AMI book reviewer and a senior Asian Pacific Studies major at Loyola Marymount University. She is deeply interested in Asian and Asian American culture and plans to attend law school. In her free time, she enjoys playing taiko, drawing, reading, and finding good new food places to eat.
*Edited by book review editor-in-chief, Ella Kelleher.