The Farewell releases in China as Awkwafina becomes the subject of online vitriol
Hateful remarks about the Crazy Rich Asians star are rife online with the release of her latest film that’s become a possible Oscar contender
Update (November 27): The story has been updated to reflect that The Farewell has only received a limited release in China for now. A planned wide release has been delayed.
The Farewell tells a touching story about a Chinese-American writer returning to China to spend time with her grandmother, who’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. But in China, some initial reactions to the film have been anything but heartwarming.
The movie was initially released in the US in July, but it only opened in China this past weekend with a limited release. The comedy is an Oscar hopeful and has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, but some in China are focusing on the appearance of the leading actress.
Netizens on China’s popular video streaming site Bilibili were found posting comments about Asian American actress Awkwafina that were far from civil. Some comments said she has a hunchback, crooked teeth and the voice of an old duck. Another called her an ancient jungle ape.
The hateful remarks about Awkwafina’s appearance were commonplace on Bilibili clips of her interviews.
“Even my ex-girlfriend was dozens of times better-looking than she is,” a Bilibili user wrote.
Discussions about the 31-year-old actress -- who also starred in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8 -- have since spread to Weibo. Some people stepped up to condemn the unfettered vitriol getting thrown around online.
“Praised by Variety for 'Power of Women 2019,' bringing confidence to Asians around the world, Awkwafina somehow wound up getting attacked by the majority [of Chinese people] over her looks,” a popular movie critic wrote on Weibo.
“The perception of beauty in our country has become too distorted,” another person wrote in a widely upvoted comment under the critic’s post. “It’s all skewed toward the standard aesthetic. But then people complain about how the face of a typical Wanghong [internet celebrity] lacks distinguishing features.”
This is not the first time Chinese netizens have criticized the looks of a leading actress over her looks. Brie Larson, who plays Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was also the subject of unflattering comments earlier this year when Chinese netizens suggested she wasn’t attractive enough.
Then it happened again in July when netizens decried Disney’s decision to cast black actress Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid.
Some of the people sticking up for Awkwafina find it sad and ironic that so many Chinese netizens turned against an actress trying to elevate the status of Asians in Hollywood.
“The biggest smears directed at this Asian actress came from none other than her own ‘kin.’ How ironic!” a Weibo commenter wrote. “Oftentimes, those who disparage Chinese people the most are none other than Chinese people themselves.”
But China might be seeing a lot more of Awkwafina in the future. She’s been cast in the upcoming Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel’s first Asian-led superhero film. And China has some very serious Marvel fans.