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Netflix Launches Asian American and Pacific Islander Category

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In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander history month, Netflix created a new category for the entire month of May that amplifies the voices and talents in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The “Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Stories” collection features a wide variety of films, series and specials created by the AAPI community who are defining their stories on their own terms. 

Netflix is not the only streaming service with a section that calls attention to voices that are habitual products of social stigma. Hulu and HBO Max debuted collections dedicated to Asian Americans seen on screen. Amazon Prime also released a statement about the company’s efforts to represent AAPI experiences. Written by Seattle’s Asians@Amazon President Ming Huang, the statement includes a list of ways to celebrate this month — from binge-watching movies by AAPI creatives to purchasing handcrafted items from AAPI-owned businesses. 

To kick things off, Netflix debuted a video campaign titled “Welcome to Our World” on May 10. The video features words from Asian entertainers and creatives Lana Condor, Daniel Dae Kim  and Tan France, among others. These creators illustrate the common stereotypes and negative misconceptions that are often used by society to delineate Asian Americans — revealing that it’s time to ditch the oversimplified image of members in the AAPI community and appreciate them for their strong, independent, creative and hard-working minds. 

Vice President of Netflix’s Documentary and Independent Films Lisa Nishimura reflected on her experience growing up Asian in the United States in a recent blog post. 

“This was a time when there were no Asians on magazine covers and little if any representation on television or in film, at least which wasn’t centered in stereotype,” Nishimura said. “In the classroom, Asians were contextualized primarily as wartime opposition, and never as contributors to the fabric of this country. As such, my classmates and I longed not to be seen as the ‘other,’ so I’m ashamed now to admit that we didn’t band together. Instead, I believe we may have distanced from one another in an attempt to somehow dilute our Asian-ness.”

Nishimura’s experience being the only member of her family born in the U.S. made her feel like a foreigner in her own childhood home. Then, when she arrived at school, her Asian-ness made her feel like an outsider. 

The lack of Asian representation in the entertainment industry leads to a series of unfortunate events — the main event being the misrepresentation and lack of diversity in the media that allows for people of color to be wrongfully stereotyped. 

Netflix’s hub highlights the perspectives of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through childrens’ movies, documentaries, stand-up comedy specials and docuseries on food and culture. It not only works to inspire and create more opportunities for marginalized groups, but also provides the AAPI community with stories they can connect and relate to. 

When clicking on the hub, a minute and 17-second trailer is shown, exemplifying the very voices of the stories included. It also highlights empowering and magical moments portrayed by AAPI actors and actresses. “Over the Moon,” the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” franchise, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” “The Chef Show” and many more are among the collection. 

To further their support and take a stand against racism and xenophobia in America, Netflix has partnered with Act to Change — a non-profit organization that works to address bullying within the AAPI community — to sponsor the third annual national AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate. The campaign’s goal is to continue to build a conversation in regard to the hostility in schools across the country towards youth in the AAPI community. This provides kids and teens facing language and cultural barriers with the appropriate resources needed to stop and prevent further bullying. It is set to take place nationwide on May 18.

Billboards are also being displayed across the country featuring messages from Asian and Pacific American content creators including Condor, Ken Jeong, and Naomi Osaka.

“Your All-American Girl Next Door is Asian,” “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” movie franchise star Condor states in one billboard. 

Netflix’s launch of the “Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Stories” collection provides a space for AAPI stories to be heard and seen. It also extends the diversity on the streaming service, succeeding the release of “Black Stories” in honor of Black history month. With films that celebrate Hawaiian culture like “Finding Ohana” to series introducing a new generation of outspoken women like “Never Have I Ever,” the streaming service continues to supply minority groups with a voice and platform to work toward ending the oppression of people of color in America. 

McKenzie Boney is an Entertainment Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at mboney@uci.edu