The First Time I Felt Represented

Representation in the media is hard to find for someone like me. Sometimes I see mixed-race actors in the TV shows and movies I watch, but I hardly ever see the fact that they're mixed being addressed in the film. Usually they just play a side character that could've been played by an actor of any race. I didn't really find myself relating to any characters culturally until very recently.

Around the last holiday season in 2020, I was scrolling through Netflix, looking for something to watch, when I stumbled upon the Netflix series Dash and Lily. It looked like a cute cheesy rom-com, and a good decompresser from all the stress of junior year midterm season and remote learning, so I decided to watch it. And yeah, it was a cute cheesy teen rom-com, but holy cow I did not expect to personally connect with the show so much.

For those of you who do not know this show, the Wikipedia synopsis of Dash and Lily states: "During the Christmas holiday season, two teenagers living in New York City develop mutual romantic feelings as they open up to each other by trading messages as well as dares in a notebook around a multitude of locations. Along the way, they deal with how their blossoming romance affects and is impacted by friends, family members, and previous love interests."

The lead female character, Lily (played by Midori Francis), is half Japanese American and half white. Not only that, but her Japanese culture is actually addressed. In one part of the show she introduces Dash to mochi, which is a Japanese rice cake (and my favorite food of all time). Lily's big family is also a major part of the show, and at the end of the season, her family celebrates Japanese New Year by going to the Buddhist church. Not only that, but the show takes place in New York City, and I was utterly shocked when I saw that scene and immediately recognized the church as the same exact one my family went to with my Obachan for New Year's! And to top all this wonderful representation off, Lily's brother Langston had a Puerto Rican boyfriend. There was actually a Puerto Rican-Japanese American couple in this show.

This might not sound like much, but watching this lead female mixed character on Netflix is what stands out in my memory as the first time I really felt represented in film. It seemed like this character was purposefully meant to be mixed-race, and that identity was actually addressed in the story. I was so surprised about how much of a connection I felt to this character's culture while watching this show. Although it took sixteen years of me being alive to finally see myself represented on the screen, I am so happy it finally happened, and I can't wait to see how mixed-race people will continue to be represented in the media in the future.

To me, different cultures being represented in the media rather than ignored in storylines are extremely important. The representation of various cultures in the media does a lot in educating others of cultures that are different from their own, as well as debunking stereotypes. This representation of cultures in mixed race characters is important to me because it validates the fact that we are still part of our cultures even though we are mixed. It also educates others about the mixed-race experience, and allows people like me to see our stories and experiences finally being told.

So, if you're looking to watch a cute Netflix series with some good mixed-race representation, I highly recommend Dash and Lily created by Joe Tracz.