Going away to college in Santa Barbara was an eye-opening experience for me, especially where I lived... I lived on the dividing highway that separated the VERY rich in Montecito from the VERY poor. When I was on one side of the street, no one thought I spoke English, I was ignored in stores and when I DID speak English, people actually looked surprised... When I was on the other side of the street, no one really knew what to make of me (not that they really cared), and some people even thought I was Hispanic.
The reason I bring all of this up tonight, is I spent a lot of time this weekend watching the wonderful Canadian Independent film Double Happiness.
It's a wonderful film about a second generation Chinese Canadian girl who struggles with the pressures of pleasing both her family and living the life she wants to live. It starred Sandra Oh (as Jade Li) and Callum Rennie (as her love interest, Mark).
The movie itself was sweet and funny and surprisingly easier for me to relate to than I expected. Although I'm considered a Yonsei (4th generation American of Japanese descent) and the movie was more about 2nd generation Chinese Canadians, it could've easily been about the plight of Asian Americans. There's a scene where Jade and Mark first meet outside a night club because both aren't "cool" enough to be let in. Jade, not wanting to speak with him, acts as though she can't speak English... It's a cute scene where Mark ends up half signing what he's saying and speaking VERY slowly - "You know... claaaam chooowder??" (Complete with a spoon to the mouth gesture) :) For anyone who looks as though English is not their first language and has ever been on the receiving end of something like this, whether or not it was done with the best of intentions, can totally relate to this scene.
The pressures of her family in the movie are familiar in all Asian families in that most had a general "don't want to shame the family" mentality - which is VERY Asian, and not limited to just the Chinese. Though my family wasn't as traditional as what was portrayed in the movie (by a long shot) I was still VERY able to relate to it. The movie took it several steps further by having Jade's family choose men they wanted Jade to date... Thank goodness my parents were never that bad!!
And though the movie was filmed back in 1994 (over ten years ago) it didn't seem that dated at all. It actually ended up being one of the better movies I'd seen in a REALLY long time... Not only was it heartfelt, but the characterization of Jade reminded me of so many people I could've easily known. (Of course it helps too that Callum Keith Rennie is adorable in the film - but there's so much more to it than that!) I HIGHLY, HIGHLY suggest renting it, if you have the chance... :)