*Warning Spoilers Ahead
Spider-Man: No Way Home broke records on its opening weekend with a debut earning of $587.2 Million worldwide, but now Jacob Batalon has helped get Fil-Am representation on the big screen. Jacob Batalon broke the stereotype as Ned Leeds, Spider-Man's BFF, and the guy in the chair and gave the character a new perspective. Opposite from the physical description in the comics, Ned Leeds is a Fil-Am STEM high school student. In No Way Home, the audience gets to see more of Ned's personal and relatable Fil-Am life.
*Again, Spoilers Ahead!
Early this year, rumors circulated that Disney/Marvel was casting for a "Filipino or Filipino-American female, 50 to 90 years old fluent in English." Spider-Man: No Way Home was in production and now we finally have the answers! Mary Rivera was cast as Ned Leeds' Lola!
Marvel and Director Jon Watts do a great job in adding important details that represent a Filipino household. The props from the sewing machine, the pandesal MJ's holding, and a photo of Ned just tell us were in his neck of the woods. One of the coolest parts is how Tagalog was incorporated in the film! Lola didn't need any subtitles. Ned translated for her when speaking to MJ and a couple of new BFFs. It showed the close relationship Ned has with his Lola. Many of us can relate to Ned and having translate for our grandparents to help them communicate.
We definitely called that Ned's Lola would be as funny as he is and that she'll be everyone's Lola. Mary Rivera's Lola wasn't a small role either. She helped welcome the biggest storyline in the movie, introducing Andrew Garfield's Amazing Spider-Man and Tobey Maguire's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
Just like many Lolas, she gets them to clean up the cobwebs on the ceiling and scolds the superheroes for making a mess. It's one of the funniest scenes. Not only that, Marvel had everyone addressing her as Lola. Respect is a huge trait in the Filipino culture and the fact that everyone from Zendaya to Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire's characters called her Lola instead of a first name shows how much thought Jon Watts and the crew put into it.
The small details of the scene may get overlooked because of the bigger storyline, but as a Fil-Am, it's touching. It's a huge win for all of us and another step towards more representation in media. Mary River was a great Lola, and Jacob Batalon broke barriers playing a main character like Ned. Lola may not have been in the scene with all three Spider-Mans, but it's probably safe to say her favorite was the OG Peter Parker.
Representation matters. It's important for the younger generation or any generation to see themselves in mainstream media. Jacob Batalon and Mary Rivera showed what a Filipino apo (grandchild) and Lola's relationship looks like to people around the world. Something we know well is now portrayed in one of the biggest films this year.
If you've read this far and haven't seen the film, run to your closest cinema and watch it! If you've already seen it, time to go watch the film again!
Cover Photo Credit: Spider-Man: No Way Home Twitter
Asian American representation in media isn't where it should be today. The NBC News interview with the To All the Boys: Always and Forever dive into their Asian American experiences. Lana Condor, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, and Ross Butler recalls growing up in various family dynamics and their relationship with their identities. They also shared who their role models are that showed them representation is possible.
Janel Parrish mentions Lea Salonga as someone she looks up to as a theater fan. She remembers saying, "Oh she looks like me". While Lana and Anna both agreed it was Brenda Song who they admired because "she was on a popular Disney show and looked like us". Her character had nothing to do with her being Asian, but it was more normalized in the show. Ross mentions that Jackie Chan was a big influence especially on Shanghai Noon. It's the first introduction where he saw an "Asian guy in the Wild West being funny"...and something I could culturally attach to.
They talk about how much love they have for their cultures, but also appreciative they are able to share it. The cast also shared their love for the Asian cuisine that in its self is its own story. All of them are huge foodies! They are the role models now in mainstream media for young Asian Americans. The franchise has shown that our story is worth telling.
Catch To All the Boys: Always and Forever streaming now on Netflix!
Cover Photo Credit: To All the Boys: Always and Forever Facebook
With February being Black History Month, Carlyle Nuera is part of history by bringing the Dr. Maya Angelou Barbie to life. The Dr. Maya Angelou Barbie is part of the Inspiring Women Series, "which pays tribute to Women of Achievement throughout history." To accurately represent the poet and civil rights activist, he collaborated with Dr. Angelou's son on the design. Carlyle says, "the doll was designed to look like Dr. Angelou circa 1970s, around the time when ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ was first released."
Carlyle is an artist and designer, and the winner of the 2019 Global Pinoy Award by MEGA Magazine. A Los Angeles native, he began his career at Mattel a decade ago, but always loved product design. He's currently the Lead Designer for Barbie Signature at Mattel. If you visit the Barbie website, you can see all the dolls designed by Carlyle. Dolls that he helped design include: Billie Jean King Barbie, Luciana Barbie, Gabby Douglas Barbie.
Cover Photo Credit: Carlyle Nuera Instagram