Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before has quickly become the latest feel-good obsession. As someone who has been a fan of the books since the publication of the first installment back in 2014, I’m incredibly happy that this series is getting the love it deserves, and rightly being praised for the diversity of the cast. What you might not have known is that author Jenny Han had more to do with this spot-on adaptation than just writing the books themselves. Han held onto the rights to her books for years in order to make sure that the film would do the books and the community justice.
Essentially, this movie would have happened a long time ago if the cast was all white.
Jenny Han had been extremely vocal and candid about the film’s journey from page to screen throughout the entire process, stating that once she would tell the production companies that showed interest in buying the rights that it was essential for Lara Jean to be portrayed correctly they would lose interest.
"One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter," Han writes. "I said, well, her spirit is Asian-American. That was the end of that."
Han ended up agreeing to work with the sole company that agreed to portray Lara Jean as Asian-American, which seems shocking considering the films immediate success.
When discussing how important it is for young Asian girls to finally be able to see themselves positively represented on the screen, it is equally important to give Han credit for all she has done to make this happen. Not just by writing the books, but by holding out on offers that could have potentially been more beneficial to her to stand up for a cause she believes in.
The business of book writing isn’t often a finically lucrative one, and authors are often told to keep their day jobs, even if their books do gain a fair amount of success and notoriety. When authors are approached by Hollywood and given the opportunity to sell the rights to their work, they usually jump at the chance for that extra paycheck.
Still, not everyone was initially pleased when the cast for the movie was finally announced. Despite Han’s best efforts to make sure the cast was diverse; some people still thought the representation wasn't accurate enough. Lara Jean, who is Korean-American in the novels, is portrayed by Lana Condor, who is of Vietnamese decent. Some fans were upset by this, saying that it portrayed the stereotype that all Asian ethnicities were interchangeable.
But Han has been incredibly candid about how important the on-screen adaptation was to her. As an Asian-American, Han not only wrote the series for girls like her but took the extra step to ensure that representation continued. After struggling for years to even get the adaptation to happen without a white lead, she insists that this is one battle won in a long war against white washing in Hollywood.