By Ed Diokno
By most accounts, The Edge of Seventeen is a pretty good movie. It “takes teenage movies to a higher place,” says the NY Times.
Hailee Steinfeld, one of her generation’s best young actresses, gives life to angst-ridden Nadine Byrd, a social outcast at her high school, someone many of us can relate to.
Edge of Seventeen, released two weeks ago, belongs in the same category of other teen classics Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.
However, the producers missed an opportunity to make it a great movie. One little twist would have put it in a category of its own and given it a certain gravitas that it lacks right now.
That slight change? Imagine what could be done if Nadine’s absent father ,Tom, was Asian American. The central character would be a hapa, half-Asian and half-white, what Filipina American Hailee is in real life. Just that simple twist would have given Nadine’s social isolation another nuance besides just feeling unloved. That character could have been done without changing a line, although it would have made it even better if there was a line or two about being of mixed race.
It also would have added another layer of complexity to Nadine’s relationship with the guy who really likes her, Erwin, played by promising newcomer Hayden Szeto. Unlike the other Asian character of note in teen movies, the infamous Long Duk Dong featured in Sixteen Candles, Erwin is a handsome, polite Korean American classmate who is not your stereotypical nerd. He is also the only other character who isn’t white. Despite Nadine’s self-deprecating and negative view of her personal life, Erwin is infatuated with her and she, well, she doesn’t see him in that light.
A line or two about the sensitive issue of AAPI girls’ and AAPI boys’ relationships would have hit a nerve with a lot of Asian Americans.
Canadian Szeto has been named People Magazine’s 2016 New Romantic Lead in in its One to Watch issue.