Wong Fu producer reveals female stereotypes in the film industry


Jeffrey Wang/The Daily Northwestern

Christine Chen tells Northwestern students about her experiences as an Asian-American female film producer. The YouTube celebrity visited Saturday to speak out about female and Asian representation in the film industry.

Isabella Jiao, Reporter

“Wong Fu Mama” Christine Chen, producer of Wong Fu Productions, shared with Northwestern students on Saturday what it was like working in the film industry as an Asian American woman.

With no filmmaking background when she started her career, Chen said she chose an untraditional career path as an Asian-American woman by working with Wong Fu Productions, a filmmaking company that bases its success on YouTube videos.

“(I had to) get over insecurity and doubt and the little voice in my head saying that they know better,” Chen said.

The talk was organized by Asian Pacific American Coalition in coordination with Asian-interest sorority Kappa Phi Lambda, Multicultural Filmmakers Collective and Northwestern University Women Filmmakers Alliance. More than 60 students attended the talk, which took place at Swift Hall.

As the only female producer at Wong Fu Productions throughout its developmental stage, Chen said she often offers a very different perspective for the team that consists of mainly men. However, at the beginning, her identity as a woman and her lack of experience in filmmaking prevented her from speaking up in front of any male counterparts, she said.

“I really enjoyed how genuine she was,” SESP senior Jeanne Hou, internal president APAC, said. “I really appreciated how open and honest it was — she said what was on her mind.”

She also said she found many movies were only made from a male perspective, and as a result, she said in most films on YouTube, female characters were not strong enough. She used “Everything Before Us,” a newly released film by Wong Fu Productions, as an example. Chen said being a woman on that team allowed her to critique the work when she felt women were being portrayed as objects to be won by men, rather than real characters with their own thoughts.

“But what does she feel?” Chen asked repeatedly as she talked about such films.

Chen said audience members should analyze what they are watching, and that just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good.

“I urge you guys to really digest what you are watching,” Chen said.

Chen said a main reason for such stereotypes is the small number of Asians pursuing arts as their academic and career paths. Her own choice in being a full-time film producer was met with much resistance from her family.

“I cannot base my life off someone else’s expectations,” Chen said on her career path decision.

APAC external president Theanne Liu, who moderated the Q&A, said the event achieved its goal of critically examining popular Asian American media.

“She talked about the more critical aspects of examining Youtube videos and media of Asian Americans,” the Communication senior said. “It is mostly written and produced by men. For a while, she didn’t have a voice, but hopefully she can help change that.”

Liu said that this is the first year Chen is speaking at events by herself. Looking forward, Chen said she’s working on giving women in film a stronger voice by organizing a conference for popular female YouTubers next year.

“Speak up for whatever community you feel the strongest about,” Chen said. “You are going to change the lives of millions by just being you.”

Drew Gerber contributed reporting.

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