When I was younger, I read this book: Millicent Min, Girl Genius.
I cannot express how much the book meant to me. How for the one of the few times in my life, I was reading a book with an Asian-American main character and it wasn’t about her getting her feet bound or the realities of being Asian in America, but rather - She was just normal (well, she was a genius, but still), facing friendship and teenage problems, just like me.
I mean, I related to other main characters before, but. It felt like this book was meant for girls/kids like me. And, while books about Chinese girls getting their feet bound or set in some historical setting or something to do with her Asian-ness, that the only reason the book exist was because of her Asian-ness and not her simple existence in the world - they were nice, alright to read, but it’s gets tiring after dozens of books like so. I wanted books about first love, adventure, mystery, slice-of-life-humor.
Millicent Min, Girl Genius was that for me. I got to imagine a character that looked like me, with my black hair and dark eyes; family members just like mine, living life just like I did. I picked up on the subtle show of relationships between members of the Asian-American community and everything just felt ten-times more relatable than any other book.
I think I read the book about a dozen times.
Around the same time, I was also obsessed with the Disney Channel and their original movies. They had dozens of original movies, about everything and anything, and I had hope so desperately for Millicent Min, Girl Genius to get adapted. I thought maybe I would try out for it and maybe they’ll pick me and I could become a real actor and famous and rich.
'I mean, they had to pick someone Asian, right? The main character was Asian. Chinese. Like me.' That was how I thought at the time. I didn't realize they could completely ignore all that and cast someone Caucasian.
I think it would have devastated me, if the book had been adapted, but they had picked someone Caucasian for the role. Was ‘Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Chinese American’ not good enough? Was I, girls like me, not good enough? That was how I thought when the cast for The Last Airbender was revealed. Whenever I see whitewashed fancasting of canon Asian/PoC characters.
I’m not sure if my ramble had a clear thesis/theme/main idea, exactly. I just wanted to convey how important it was to me that I, as Asian American, Chinese American, get represented in books, on TV, in films. I can’t even pinpoint the exactly logic reason. It just is. It’s been something that had an effect on me since I was a little kid and still effects me now and I just want to know that people like me can be represented on TV not as background, not as a one special flavor episode, not as cultural sampling for the main characters and forgotten about right afterwards - But as a person.