Been Thinking About Minari…
and how I feel guilty for not liking it and if I should always be rooting for everyone Asian
I can’t think of a movie I’ve wanted to like as much as I wanted to like “Minari.”
My family immigrated to Ithaca, a college town in upstate New York, in 1984. Like the family in the movie, we too are a family of four, with a son and daughter (except I’m the elder). My parents also moved to Little Rock, Arkansas (in 2010). The movie starred Steven Yeun, who in my eyes is the best Korean American actor working today. It was written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, a Korean American. Plus it was produced by A24.
On the surface, it had all the ingredients I’d been wanting in a movie about the Asian American experience. One that I hoped that I could relate to. But I struggled with it. Immensely. And a lot of it is my fault.
There is a sense of racial or ethnic FOMO. Sometimes there’s the, “You didn’t watch it yet?!” I can’t decide if, “You didn’t like it?!” is worse or not. Sometimes I feel a sense of racial duty or need to do something in the name of racial solidarity. I get enough shit for not listening to KPop or watching KDramas. Or maybe it’s me interpreting people being surprised that I don’t as them giving me shit.
As “Minari” went on my excitement for it faded. I don’t even know how to describe how I was feeling. Mostly, I felt letdown. I felt bad for not liking it. I felt betrayed by the people who’d posted that it was a great film. I trusted y’all! It was impossible to escape the excitement around the film.
I felt like a bad Asian, a bad Asian American, a bad Korean, a bad Korean American, a bad immigrant. Like why did this not do anything for me? Why couldn’t I connect to it? Another Korean American told me that she cried throughout the whole movie and I was thinking, is something wrong with me?
In terms of the film, I feel like while the right elements were in place they weren’t fully realized nor fully explored. A lot of it felt surface-y. I had issues with the characters not looking like they were Korean American immigrants in rural Arkansas in the ’80s. I had issues with their wardrobe looking too modern, like today’s version of ‘80s-inspired fashion. I had…