I will discuss the representation of gender in a recent Netflix original film”,’To all the boy I’ve ever loved’, based on the novel written by Jenny Han and the film directed by Susan Johnson. Representation of something means how something is portrayed, be it race, religion, sexuality etc. In this film, I believe gender, and gender roles are portrayed very well. As the film was released in August 2018, it has been described to be a relatable teenage Romantic comedy.
The lead character – Lara Jean
Lara Jean is a very relatable character. She is the middle daughter who writes love letters to “all the boys [she’s] loved before”, but interestingly she never sends them to the boys. When reading an article, Vice said, “Lara Jean is a type of protagonist that is rarely seen in teenage rom-coms. She stands up for herself, but she is, for the most part, a quiet person who lives in her head. In other words, she tells people she sees herself as invisible. ”When Lara Jean’s deceased mother was pregnant with her youngest sister, Kitty, apparently the family prayed that the new child would be a girl. I read from a source that, ”This is unsettlingly reminiscent of the old Western dream of an Asia without Asian men. In this very familiar fantasy world, whiteness manifests itself as the masculine and Asianness as the feminine.”
Lara Jean gets into a fake relationship with Peter, to help him win back his ex girlfriend Gen, but he is also one of Lara jeans recipients of her letters. Peter’s aim is to make Genevieve jealous and eventually win her back. However, unexpectedly, Peter fall in love with Lara Jean during the course of their contract agreement.
According to a source, “ In the past, many westernized films often depicted Asian women as weak and submissive or as the overly sexualized Dragon Lady or Lady of the Night who must be rescued by a “white savior.” Lara Jean doesn’t fall victim to any of these ideas. After the conflict towards the end of the film, Lara Jean doesn’t wait for Peter to come crawling back to her. Instead, she takes it upon herself to win back the boy she loves. In most teenage rom coms it is usually the guy that tries to win back the girl. This is a perfect example of what Hollywood would believe to be a reversal of gender roles. As the source puts it, “Lara Jean got to be the romantic lead in a movie where stereotypes are dispelled”.
Lara-Jean’s character hugely develops in the duration of the film. It can be said that her self-confidence only brought about through her continuous engagement and interaction with the boys in the movie. In particular, her interaction with the male lead, and the most popular guy in school. Lara Jean isn’t use to the amount of attention she receives. It is obvious that Lara Jean comes out of her bubble. She was finally being noticed and appreciated because she is hanging out with the popular guy. But is it right that Lara Jean gets her confidence boost from a guy? Is this the message Hollywood is sending out to young girls?
The scene I have chosen to talk about that in my opinion gives way to the gender differences in the film is when a rumor goes round about Lara Jean, and everyone starts to call her a slut. This causes major distress for her. The audiences’ first response to this may have been that Peter had started the rumour, which is almost always predicted in most of these films, but instead Peter makes an announcement saying otherwise. Lara Jean’s inner monologue is a continual essence of, “I’m a good girl, I’d never do anything like that”. She’s shrouded in shame, embarrassment, and disgust by the thought.
The most horrifying part was when her father believes his daughter is having sex. He says he’s very disappointed in her and didn’t think she would do something like that. He thought she was a “good girl”. This mindset is something that the media and literature creators need to start challenging. These attitudes feed into a culture that represses women, particularly their sexuality, and creates a culture of shame. Of course, Lara Jean is a victim of slut shaming, but this isn’t highlighted as a bullying issue. The author turns it into a disapproval surrounding girls and sex through Lara Jean’s opinion that sex is inappropriate.
In conclusion, it is very rare to see Asian or Asian American actors lead major Hollywood stories, especially rom-coms, but a new generation of movies is now following Cho’s advice and dreaming bigger with more diverse love stories such as films like ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’, and ‘The Edge of Seventeen’. Sex and Sexuality remain to be taboo subjects in the world Hollywood yet are seeing the start of a new generation to come. I personally found the film easy to follow and at times quite relatable. One of my favourite quotes from the novel is as follows, “Life doesn’t have to be so planned. Just roll with it and let it happen.”