China Has Mixed Feelings About 95th Academy Awards’ Big Winner

“A win for political correctness,” wrote one Weibo user in response to ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’s historic haul at the Oscars 2023

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11:21 AM HKT, Wed March 15, 2023 2 mins read

On March 12, the science fiction dramedy Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEAAO) won seven of the 24 categories — including Best Picture — at the 95th Academy Awards (commonly known as the Oscars).

Given the film’s majority-Asian cast, it was a historic win for representation in Hollywood.

EEAAO star Michelle Yeoh also took home the Oscar for Best Actress, making her the first Asian woman to do so. Yeoh is a veteran of the film industry; she began acting in Hong Kong in the late 1980s and made a name for herself in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), and Crazy Rich Asians (2018).

However, despite Chinese netizens’ love for Yeoh — who plays Evelyn, an immigrant laundromat owner being audited by the IRS, many do not believe that the film lives up to the hype.

On the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, one person commented, “I don’t mean that Everything Everywhere All At Once is bad, but I simply don’t think it has reached the level of Best Picture at the Academy Awards.”

The film follows Evelyn’s fraught relationship with her queer daughter (played by Stephanie Hsu) throughout the multiverse. It is absurdist and genre-bending; it deals with everything from nihilism and existentialism to buttplugs and bagels.

It resonated deeply with Asian American audiences, who appreciated its heartfelt rendering of the immigrant experience.

everything everywhere all at once, oscars 2023, michelle yeoh oscars

The cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once receiving the Oscar for Best Picture. Image via VCG

Though EEAAO was never officially released in China, that hasn’t stopped more than 459,000 people from leaving reviews of the film on Douban, the Chinese version of IMDb. There, it has an aggregated rating of 7.6/10, which is not bad, but — according to many netizens — not quite good enough to merit the honor of being crowned Best Picture.

Too ‘Politically Correct’?

A common point of criticism among those who dislike the film is its so-called ‘political correctness,’ which is referred to online as ‘zzzq,’ an acronym for the Chinese word for the term (政治正确, zhengzhi zhengque).


Stephanie Hsu as Joy, Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, and Ke Huy Quan as Waymond in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Image via IMDb

One person wrote, “I didn’t understand it [...] It was a work with very confusing expressions […] It wanted to touch upon so many different aspects but failed to go into details in any direction. No point is highlighted, and there is no clear theme. There are even zzzqs that deliberately cater to American aesthetics. Maybe Americans like this kind of film, but personally, I really can’t appreciate it. Congratulations to Michelle Yeoh and the film, but I don’t like it.”

However, no one is forthcoming about what makes the film so politically correct. Although we assume it could refer to one or all of the following: the Asian cast, the female protagonists, or the lesbian daughter.

A Mixed Bag, Otherwise

Of course, many in China love the film. In response to the detractors, one netizen wrote, “Everything Everywhere All At Once is an excellent film that combines entertainment and artistry […] Of course, the sweep is related to the downturn in the film industry over the past two years, but even if there were other better films, [EEAAO] would still be a strong contender for Best Picture.”

Another praised its “perfect use of abstract and scattered cultural symbols” and the way it used science fiction to discuss “the dilemma of middle age, self-reconciliation, and cultural conflicts.” Although the commenter also said the Raccacoonie scenes were “too abstract.”

michelle yeoh's evelyn with hot dog fingers in everything everywhere all at once

Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn in one of the multiverses. Image via IMDb

This latter opinion represents another reaction to the film among Chinese audiences: bewilderment. The same qualities that catapulted EEAAO to Best Picture — its absurdity and originality — made some Chinese viewers consider it not quite Oscar-worthy.

This discrepancy between the opinions of Chinese American and Chinese audiences may have to do with a disconnect in their lived experiences and their personal recognition of the film’s characters.

Finally, some netizens used the triumph of EEAAO to question why Chinese films don’t perform better at the prestigious Academy Awards. As one Chinese blogger wrote, “When will we be able to see works and actors from the Chinese mainland win [at the Oscars]?”

Cover image via VCG

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