A Step Forward as First Asian Film Academy President is Elected

Aliyah Sarmiento - Teen Aspect - August 30th, 2022
(The Playlist, 2022) [1]
 

A day filled with many congratulations was held when Janet Yang, renowned film producer, was elected as the new president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, making her the fourth woman and, more significantly, the first Asian American to hold the prestigious title. This momentous occasion was preceded by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures dedicating a pillar in her name in July, also making Yang the first Asian American woman to have the honor [2].


Having risen to fame through her collaboration with Steven Spielberg on Empire of the Sun, a film based on J.G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel about his experience growing up in Shanghai during World War II, Yang has proven herself to be one of the most formidable film producers in this day and age, even securing an Emmy and Golden Globe Award under her belt. Not only that, her impressive works with the Asia Society Southern California and Gold House, a non-profit collective of influential Asian cultural leaders that she co-founded, showcases her utmost dedication to being a voice for the Asian community as someone who is of Chinese-descent, becoming a clear inspiration for other Asian people and other minorities to push their talents [3].


The American film industry, while making progress, has consistently been dominantly made up of those who are white or male. In fact, a study showed that “women are less than 22% of directors and 33% of film writers,” while “both male and female people of color represent 30% of directors and 32% of film writers [4].” This undeniable disparity amplifies the impact of Yang’s presidential win as a female person of color.


For the Asian community, the film industry as a collective is one filled with stereotypical and inaccurate representation. Only accounting for 5.6% of film leads, 6.4% of film roles, 6.7% of film directors, and 4% of film writers [5], it is no wonder why movies and media portray Asian people with such a lack of depth and character so many of the times, usually falling under the “genius” or “martial artist” roles. With more people like Yang behind the screen and in growing positions of influence, better representation of all Asian people alike can be accounted for, and hopefully, a wider array of all Asian people, Southeast, Central, and more alike, can be seen on screen.


Overall, Janet Yang’s win as Academy President is truly an excellent example of improvement in the American film industry. While it may have been overdue, all the efforts towards diversity, regardless of whether it is big or small, should be recognized, especially if it is one of such feats. Through Yang, the Asian community, women, and other people of color experienced a great win together.


References

[1] Ellwood, G. (2022). Janet Yang Elected New Academy President. The Playlist. https://theplaylist.net/janet-yang-elected-new-academy-president-20220802/


[2] Buckner, M. (2022). Producer Janet Yang Receives Academy Museum Honor: ‘It’s a Symbol of How Communities Can Come Together’. Variety. https://variety.com/2022/film/news/janet-yang-academy-museum-honor-1235300561/


[3] Biography. (n.d.) Janet Yang Productions. http://janetyang.com/biography


[4] Taylor, H. & Boorstin, J. (2022). Here’s where Hollywood’s efforts to improve diversity really stand in 2022. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/24/ucla-hollywood-diversity-report-shows-women-and-people-of-colors-film-industry-progress.html


[5] Hunt, D. & Ramon, A.C. (2022). Hollywood Diversity Report 2022. UCLA. https://socialsciences.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/UCLA-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2022-Film-3-24-2022.pdf


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