Critics of the recent film Everything, Everywhere All At Once have remarked that this is quintessentially a film depicting Asian-American culture, the Asian worldview. And—they add—American viewers may not realize that it is replete with allusions to Buddhist and Eastern philosophy. So says The Guardian’s Bertie Huynh: “Unfortunately, these points are often missed by a western audience and even the near wall to wall positive coverage of this film barely touches on its philosophical significance.”
Unless, like me, you actually study and practice Buddhism, and then it’s blatantly obvious. The film is loaded with Buddhist symbolism and philosophy, starting with the black enso scrawled on tax forms that become the Everything Bagel of the Universe. But just to make sure that I wasn’t reading into it, that feeling of “am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing?”, I checked out some reviews of the film.
Diep Tran reviews Everything within the context of Buddhist representation in American cinema. She remarks: Instead, the Daniels’ film actively engages with the [Buddhist] religion’s philosophy. Within the film’s larger themes of Asian American identity, this engagement is appropriate instead of appropriative.
Everything was also hysterically funny—I laughed so hard I was glad I was not in a movie theatre—they would have thrown me out for laughing so much. In addition to being a commanding dramatic actress and martial arts expert, Michelle Yeoh is a perfectly-timed comedian. Yeoh is also Executive Producer of the film.
To top it all off—like an Everything Bagel—it’s also a quintessentially queer film. The protagonist Evelyn Wang’s daughter, Joy, is a lesbian with an actual girlfriend, and much of the dramatic tension in the film centers around the way her lesbian relationship disrupts traditional Asian family values. But that’s the most obvious queer motif in the film. What is not discussed, even by Asian-American film critics, is the smorgasbord of queer symbolism that is peppered through the film like an over-stuffed pizza: S&M, butt plugs, dildos, Evelyn’s lesbian relationship with the IRS agent (in another universe), and Joy Wang’s outrageously drag-queeny costumes and fantasy make-up as the film’s villainous diva, Jobu Tupaki.
But since I’m also a practicing Faggotologist, I notice these things.
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