Michelle Yeoh: “Shut up, please. I can beat you up…”
Arroy (AJ) Jacob, Contributor
“Shut up, please. I can beat you up, okay?” says world-renowned Michelle Yeoh to the pianist who began playing in the middle of her winning speech as she accepts the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy. Her portrayal as protagonist Evelyn Wang in long-awaited film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, gained notoriety for masterfully intertwining the pains of a struggling immigrant with the space-time continuum. But the win means so much more than just an award for a deserving actress; it can also change the perception of Asian Hollywood media for years to come.
The 80th Annual Golden Globes is one of the world’s most prestigious award shows of the year, a celebratory accolade from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association recognizing some of 2023’s best American/International films, TV shows and media people. Everything Everywhere All at Once was nominated for six awards in big categories.
Despite the speculation of the show’s producers attempting to send her off with the pianist, Yeoh stood her ground and continued to praise her directors’ and colleagues’ nominations.
Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan’s wins meant the world for its superfans. Quan’s winning speech for his Globe left national treasure Steven Spielberg blowing kisses as Quan thanked him for his first opportunity as a child actor in Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom.
As a person of colour myself, it’s easy to evoke a similar emotional response. But there is a difference between “a really good” movie and a movie with meaning.
Amidst the sudden spew of Asian hate crimes in recent years in the Western world, Everything Everywhere All At Once artistically counteracts the misinformation and stereotypes that comes when being associated with the label “Asian” in North America.
Evelyn Wang’s Chinese heritage heavily influenced her character and her role in rescuing the paradoxical multiverse, whether it was Yeoh’s musicality in Chinese opera or her expertise in martial arts. However, the way it translates into the initial American setting accentuates its beauty further, showcasing the complexities and allure of East-Asian cultures.
A critique on generational trauma, but in space
On the topic of enlightenment, the directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as the Daniels’) critique Asian stereotypes for its audience as it follows the Wang family’s journey through the ever-expanding multiverse. Non-communicative relationships run rampant within Asian families everywhere. The problem, however, is the product of a never-ending cycle of generational trauma.
As Evelyn stumbles through her journey through the infinite display of parallel universes, she (as should many immigrant families) looks inward at her own family dynamic and sees the gaping holes that she cannot patch up alone.
Vichayuth Chantan from Lifestyle Asia comments on how “this film… reminds parents that it’s okay to talk to your kids directly. Our pride isn’t going to be hurt if we have a heart-to-heart once in a while.” The Daniels’ eloquently reiterated how a struggling family, especially one escaping the cycle of generational trauma, can patch the gaping holes keeping their loved ones apart, and not just because they’re in another parallel universe.
People of colour can do everything (everywhere, all at once)
Returning to the accolades, Yeoh and Quan were the only actors of colour nominated for their respective categories and won. Their victory exemplified how marginalized individuals living in the Western world can achieve success despite their racialization. At the Golden Globes press room, Yeoh waltzed the stage ready to answer questions from the reporters, one of them addressing that Yeoh has “completely flipped the script when it comes to what it means to be a leading woman in Hollywood and people finally seeing all the incredible talent that [she possesses].”
Their awards also showcase the need to uplift talent from marginalized communities. As Yeoh puts it, “whatever that glass ceiling was, we just ninja kicked it….we shattered it, and we have to keep it that way.” Everything Everywhere All At Once is the film our society needs more than ever. It simultaneously critiques and uplifts people of colour while creating the perfect template of what Hollywood needs to do to continue its journey for equity, diversity and inclusion. This original message pierces the hearts of any audience in any universe.
When asked for her advice on “the Asian diaspora who have unfulfilled dreams,” Yeoh says, “if you believe in yourself, you believe you have a passion in what you do, you don’t give up…”
Even if the pianist next to you tries to shut you down.