It’s been over two weeks since Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s multiverse thirst trap fever dream of a sci-fi fantasy family drama Everything Everywhere All At Once won HUGE and made history at the 95th annual Academy Awards winning 7 out of the 11 Oscars it was nominated for including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan, Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
The film was the first in the history of the Academy Awards to win six above-the-line Oscars.More than that, Queen Michelle Yeoh became the first woman of Asian descent to win the Oscar for Best Actress and the second woman of color to win the trophy. That said, it was poetic that the first woman of color to win, Halle Berry, presented Yeoh with the Oscar.
It was also poetic that I was at SXSW when EEAAO won all these trophies. From a viewing party at the Residence Inn near the Austin Convention Center, I stood there watching history being made at the Oscars in the exact city and almost exact date where the film made its world premiere. It was a year ago where I moderated a panel with producer Jonathan Wang and Ke Huy Quan at the fest and little did we know that we were talking to two future Oscar winners.
Even before that, I remember interviewing Wang, Roxanne Taylor and Robert Salerno for the Producer Guild of America’s Produced By magazine for a discussion about the new independent film landscape. And even before that, I remember during my Deadline days, I heard through the grapevine — via many reliable sources — that Ke Huy Quan was up for the role in the movie. I was eating lunch with someone who told me casually that he was up for a role in a movie with Michelle Yeoh. I immediately got excited and said, “I really hope that it puts him back in the spotlight.”
Fast forward to 2023 and Quan is an Oscar winner with one of the most authentic and heartfelt awards season journeys we have ever witnessed.
I admit, I was nervous about EEAAO‘s chances of winning in an awards season that has been unpredictable. Despite all of its wins at the award ceremonies leading up to the Oscars, I was anxious that the film would not win as much as people thought it would. Not because I didn’t think the film didn’t deserve to win, because I didn’t trust the Academy system or all these voters. I look at history and see how it has screwed over so many people and was very much on guard and ready to be disappointed — which is sad. It’s sad because, most of the time, marginalized folks always expect to lose — especially in systems not built for us to succeed. To a certain extent, this happened at this year’s Oscars with Angela Bassett losing the Supporting Actress award to Jamie Lee Curtis. That is a totally different conversation that we can get into later, but my take on this is this: the system is working exactly the way it supposed to work.
I noticed that as soon as EEAAO won all these accolades at the Oscars, everyone celebrated the culture — or rather, they celebrated themselves, posting selfies with any and all the stars from the film. And why not? In it’s own unique way, the wins of the film represents a piece of all Asian and Asian Americans living in this country. It’s when people act like they were in the movie and try to take credit for work they didn’t do. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but sometimes people just have to reel it in.
Nonetheless, there was one particular thing in EEAAO that was so beautifully told and is heartbreakingly real to so many queer kids from immigrant families… specifically Asian families. THAT scene in the parking lot.
It’s one thing to be queer, but it’s another thing to be queer in a very traditional Asian family — or any other culture under the conservative immigrant umbrella (first gens are usually most impacted by this). For a lot of queer people of immigrant, we grew up closeted. We grew up being taught what our gender roles and identities should be and if we strayed from those lanes, we would be ridiculed or punished. We didn’t necessarily come from a home that didn’t love us, but we grew up in a home where we couldn’t totally be our true selves. School and the outside world was not a safe space to foster our authentic identities and unfortunately, home wasn’t either.
Many of us would be told “Real men don’t cry!” or “You need to dress more like a girl” or “Stop acting like a sissy!” or even worse, “Don’t act gay!” We not only had to put on an act navigating the world, we also had to, to a certain extent, perform at home.
I see it changing. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than it was when I was a kid.
EEAAO is testimony to this in the aforementioned scene. We see Yeoh’s Evelyn and Stephanie Hsu’s Joy share a moment that many queer kids have with their parents in real life. In many immigrant families, so many queer kids have to come out to their parents numerous times before the parents finally accept it. However, some never accept it. Others just choose to ignore it. In any instance, that coming out conversation does not get any easier, especially to parents who will never fully recognize their queer child. It’s like being only 95% seen.
The EEAAO phenomenon has swept cinema and impacted it in ways that we never knew. Love it, or hate it, you cannot deny that the film disrupted a system with an authenticity and heart that I have never felt with any other movie. Everything this movie won was earned and the genuine kindness exuded from everyone involved in the film made it shine brighter. What’s even better is that it just made queer kids from immigrant families feel seen. It made them connect with Joy (pun intended) and her experience. For many queer kids, that scene feels so real that it’s unbelievably frightening. It’s also a beautiful catharsis for both Joy and Evelyn. It’s not necessarily all resolved, but it shows that they are building a foundation to get to a resolution. They build a bridge together.
Throughout the film, Joy is essentially trying to search the multiverse for a version of her mother that loves her — that’s the story of nearly very queer kid.They just want to be accepted for who they are. They just want to be loved. And when they can’t find it, they don’t know what to do… so they demand that love even more. They demand that acceptance. It’s a amorphous blob of queer emotion that can either make or break an individual and Everything Everywhere All At Once folded that exactly that flawlessly and subtlety into a maximalist feature where the acceptance of queerness is pulsating through its veins, making many queer kids see themselves in Joy — including me.