One of the few Asian faces I saw on screen as a kid was Tia Carrere’s. She played Cassandra Wong, the female protagonist in 1992 comedy Wayne’s World—something rare now but virtually unheard of at the time.
Growing up, her character strongly resonated with me. That, combined with the fact that creator Mike Myers is a hometown hero (we’re both from Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto), inspired me to write my very first piece for New York Magazine‘s The Cut: an ode to Cassandra.
Here’s an excerpt:
Cassandra is Hollywood’s original Asian-American cool girl, but her race is only part of her identity. To this day, she still stands as one of the more multidimensional Asian female characters in mainstream American comedy. Cassandra isn’t special because she’s cool — she’s special because she can’t be pigeonholed. She’s beautiful, talented, strong, smart, and funny, bucking the reductive stereotypes of Asian women that dominate pop culture. Throughout Hollywood history, we’ve mostly either been portrayed as deceitful and domineering “dragon ladies” (see Ziyi Zhang in the Rush Hour movies) or submissive and obedient “china dolls” (see Sylvia Sidney wearing yellowface in Madame Butterfly). There’s also the persistent whitewashing of Asian characters, such as Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.
Read the entire piece, here, and sound off in the comments.