The Race and Gender Fails Of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”


Based on Jenny Han’s novel of the same name, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a high school rom-com about three Asian Mixed sisters growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Released this summer by Netflix (the same week as Crazy Rich Asians) the movie made huge waves for representing an Asian American story and casting Vietnamese American actress Lana Condor in the lead role. Critics and viewers adored it. The film quickly became one of Netflix’s biggest hits and a notable player in the rom-com renaissance.

The Covey girls, who are Korean and white, live with their single white father Dr. Covey (John Corbett) in a Portland suburb. Their Korean mother passed away when they were younger. Condor plays middle child Lara, a dreamy, introverted teen who likes to stay home with her sisters, bury herself in romantic novels, and write love letters to crushes that she never mails. But when oldest sister Margot (Jannel Parish) leaves for college and Lara becomes even more withdrawn, youngest sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) decides to mail five of Lara’s love letters. As a mortified Lara is forced to step into the world to deal with being outed, she discovers new friendship, social confidence, and real-life romance.

To All the Boys is endearing in ways. I love rom-coms and this one satisfies superficially, seeped in pop culture, with its charming but conflicted lead characters and quirky supporting cast. Condor is such a compelling actress and her take on Lara Jean as a self-reliant but cautious Snapchat Gen teen, is refreshingly sincere. The movie also portrays three Asian biracial girls living in the Pacific Northwest, a theme I have an obvious stake in being an Asian biracial woman who has lived in Seattle for seventeen years. I wanted to adore this movie as much as its many rave reviewers. But I have to confess; I had a pretty tough time watching it…


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