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China Reacts to Awkwafina’s History-Making Golden Globes Win

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Awkwafina became the first Asian-American woman to ever win a Golden Globe for best actress in a film category this weekend, when she picked up the Hollywood Foreign Press Association award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her star role in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. And despite that film seeing its mainland China release delayed last year, the Chinese internet nevertheless went into celebration mode at the news.

The actress, who was born in Long Island as Nora Lum, is only the sixth actor of Asian descent to be nominated in the category. She has long been known in the Asian-American community for her raunchy rap songs such as “My Vag” and “NYC Bitche$,” but The Farewell was her first break-out lead role in movies after a well-received support role in Crazy Rich Asians. Her upcoming projects now include producing and starring in the story of Chinatown restaurants midwifing the Bay Area’s punk scene, and of course Marvel’s Shang-Chi with Simu Liu.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked director Lulu Wang, her father “(I told you I’d get a job, Dad.”), her grandmother, and her late mother: “I hope that she’s watching now.”

Related:

“The Farewell” Gets Intimate with the Gaps Between Being Asian, Being Chinese, and Being American

The Farewell is based on Chinese-American director Lulu Wang’s real-life story. In the film, Billi (Awkwafina) and her family try to hide her grandmother’s own cancer diagnosis from her, orchestrating a wedding in China to say goodbye to her one last time. While the film is set in Changchun and contains 80% Mandarin dialogue, it is widely regarded as a distinctly Chinese-American story.

Because of this, it did not receive the glowing praise in China that it did in the US; some Chinese critics felt it was an inaccurate depiction of Chinese culture from an outsider’s perspective. Some netizens also took issue with Awkwafina’s appearance, saying that she was too “plain” or “ugly” to represent Chinese people on screen. The film currently has a score of 7.3 out of 10 on film reviews site Douban.

Yet Awkwafina’s Golden Globes win made headlines across the country, with many taking to social media to celebrate her success — and the appearance at the awards of veteran actor Zhao Shuzhen. Zhao, who is wonderful as Awkwafina’s grandmother in the film, drew the loving attention of both American and Chinese netizens as she chatted unpretentiously on the red carpet, posed for a picture with Leonardo DiCaprio, and gushed about wanting to meet Al Pacino.

The Farewell — known as “Don’t Tell Her” in Chinese — is now set for a proper release in mainland China this week.

For a look at the other movies and TV shows that will be making waves in China in 2020 you can go here. For more on films that help you understand modern China, check out our list of 25 movies from the 2010s to watch here.

Allison Jiang
    Allison Jiang is a Baltimore-based writer interested in the intersection of art and culture. She is passionate about big dogs, social justice, and stand-up comedy, among other things.