Last Friday, Constance Wu gained some new internet enemies.
The Crazy Rich Asians actress, who has been riding high on the success of the seminal film with a slew of other new projects that have made the Asian American community beam with pride (including the Jennifer Lopez vehicle, Hustlers), drew criticism for her profanity-infused tweet regarding the renewal of the show that launched her career, ABC's record-breaking sitcom Fresh Off the Boat.
She wrote that the show's schedule conflicted with a new project she'd had in the pipeline — thus the renewal meant dropping the other opportunity she'd been looking forward to stretching her acting muscles in. Following the backlash, Wu issued an apology for "insensitive" reaction, but emphasized that her disappointment stemmed from the fact that her new project would have challenged her as an artist, whereas playing tiger mom Jessica Huang was just "easy and pleasant."
Drama ensued. Wu was dragged for being "ungrateful," "pretentious," and "unappreciative" both of the show that gave her name recognition as well as the men and women who worked hard on its production. But things were not so one-sided, as some users rushed to her defense.
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The sentiments of many of Wu's supporters seemed to echo those of Inkoo Kang, who wrote for Slate that while Wu's very public (and profane) reaction probably wasn't the most respectable way to handle her disappointment, it revealed her as a multi-dimensional human being. Even if that human being was, on occasion, messy.
"From a PR standpoint, Wu definitely screwed up," wrote Kang. "But as someone who doesn’t just want to see laudable or relatable representations of Asian America, but the full, messy diversity of humanity within it, I can’t help appreciating Wu’s accidental self-exposure, as well as her subsequent reframing, as part of that larger goal."
Vulture writer E. Alex Jung posted a poignant clip from The Hours, in which Nicole Kidman played Virginia Woolf, a writer as well-known for her incredible talent as for her struggle with feeling like a caged bird unable to sing (er, write) to her fullest potential because she was being held back by her well-meaning husband who insisted on what you might call an "easy and pleasant" life.
Katherine Heigl, who made headlines for similar behavior over a decade ago for seeming "ungrateful" following a network success (Grey's Anatomy), was referenced as a parallel both by Wu's critics and supporters. Though her career somewhat stalled after she critiqued her character's lackluster storyline, in hindsight, supporters say her complaints were valid.
Wu's role as a woman of color in Hollywood has also not been overlooked by those choosing to give her the benefit of the doubt given the historical treatment of minorities in the film business.
On Tuesday, ABC entertainment president Karey Burke announced that Wu's role on the sitcom would not be recast, and that Wu would not face studio repercussions for her reaction to the renewal.
“I’m going to choose to believe Constance’s most recent communication about the show that she is happy to return,” she said, according to the Daily Beast. “The cast and crew is happy to have her back and we’re thrilled to keep her on the show.”
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