Cynthy Wu Is Out To 'Reclaim The Narrative' For Asian Americans In Hollywood


It's no secret that Hollywood has a diversity problem. All you have to do is look at the movie screen to see the overwhelming whiteness of the actors bearing down on you. Even characters who were originally people of color have been whitewashed, as in the case of 'The Ancient One' in Marvel's Doctor Strange, who in the comics was Tibetan, but in the movie was played by Tilda Swinton.

Recently, Ed Skrein stepped down from a role in Hellboy because the character was part Asian in the original comic. While Skrein is to be commended, it was the Asian American community that brought the issue into the public consciousness. Casting directors called the move a wake-up call, and the role has since been recast with Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean American actor.

Ed Skrein stepped down from a part in Hellboy because the character was part Asian in the original comic. The role has since been recast with Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean American actor. Photo Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

Cynthy Wu, a Vietnamese and Chinese American actor, believes that vocal outpourings like this one signal a seismic shift in Hollywood from a culture of marginalization to one where Asian Americans are able to tell their own stories--behind and in front of the camera.

A Talent in the Making

Cynthy Wu has been acting professionally since 2012, and earlier this year she made waves with her role as Ally Harris in Before I Fall, an adaptation of a popular young adult novel about a girl who comes to terms with her mortality, as she finds herself reliving the last day of her life again and again.

"Cynthy Wu believes that vocal outpourings signal a seismic shift in Hollywood from a culture of marginalization to one where Asian Americans are able to tell their own stories." Photo Courtesy of IMDB

On top of several movies coming out next year, Wu is playing the role of Carol in the series Just Doug, currently available on Facebook Watch, the company's newly unveiled streaming platform. Like the titular Doug (played by Douglas Kim), Wu's character is an Asian American struggling to make it as an artist in Hollywood.

Refreshing Roles

"Too often in Hollywood," Wu explains, "an Asian American is cast as the 'quirky friend' of the (white) star, or the 'smart nerdy girl who answers questions and has five lines.'"

Even worse, Asian American actors have had crude stereotypes thrust upon them, as in the second episode of Just Doug, where the lead character is told to speak with a heavy accent if he wants a role in a sitcom.

Wu's character, on the other hand, gives her the opportunity to tell stories that haven't been told enough from an Asian American point of view. Carol is an ambitious writer who's "starting from the bottom, working hard, and trying her best to break through." By exploring Carol's professional and romantic journey, Wu reveals her to be so much more than a sidekick or a funny one-liner. "Not only is it refreshing for young Asian Americans to see these kinds of three-dimensional characters played by people who look like them," Wu notes. "But it's a reclaiming of identity, an opportunity for Asian Americans to express ourselves instead of letting others tell our stories."

"It’s encouraging for her to be part of shows like Just Doug, which has a majority Asian American cast, as well as writer and director." Photo Courtesy of ylwrngr

Towards a More Diverse Hollywood

When asked if she thinks there's a movement underway towards better representation, she expresses optimism. "This is where film and TV are going," she says. "The time when you'd see the same story over and over again for Asian American actors is coming to a close." It's encouraging for her to be part of shows like Just Doug, which has a majority Asian American cast, as well as writer and director. "It's nice to arrive on set and see a face like mine and think 'oh, I'm not alone, I'm not the only one doing this.'"

With shows like Just Doug, and movies like Crazy Rich Asians, the first major studio film with a majority Asian cast since 1993's The Joy Luck Club, it's hard to doubt Wu's optimism. The strides her and others are making toward representation will surely inspire a whole new generation to tell their own stories without hesitation and to reclaim their own narratives.

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."