Pixar’s Bao made history as the first Pixar short directed by a woman, Chinese-Canadian animator Domee Shi. This past Sunday, it became the first animated short by a woman of color to win the Academy Award.
Bao tells the tale of an Asian mother suffering from a lonely nest that finds herself raising an anthropomorphic bao as her new baby. She watches her beloved dumpling grow up faster than she can follow. Eventually, it marries a beautiful white woman and the mother devours her culinary creation before it can leave her life.
Waking up in tears, the sequence is revealed to be a dream as her actual son, who looks much like the dumpling, has returned for a tense, but loving visit with his fiancee.
The film is a stirring tribute to Asian families, their love of food, and the often difficult times between parents and their children.
Comedians Awkwafina and John Mulaney announced the film’s victory at the awards ceremony. Awkwafina in particular looked extremely joyful as Mulaney read out the name!
Shi accepted the award alongside her producer Becky Neiman Cobb. She emotionally declared “To all the nerdy girls out there who hide behind their sketchbooks, don’t be afraid to tell your stories to the world.”
Shi previously admitted that learning about making bao helped her understand her mother and her love for her.
Naturally, Asian netizens were quick to offer their commentary and responses.
Asian-Canadian author and illustrator Jonny Sun tweeted an emotional and poignant statement of how the film and its eventual success despite criticism and mockery by white audiences echoes the current popularity of Asian food.
bao being trashed and misunderstood by white audiences and then winning the oscar feels like a perfect metaphor for how people called so much asian food smelly and disgusting during my entire childhood only for it become celebrated now
— jonny sun (@jonnysun) February 25, 2019
A tweet by Asian filmmaker William Yu from Summer 2018 where he compiled culturally insensitive reactions by non-Asian audiences from last summer was also brought back into the spotlight.
Many of the confused audience members either didn’t know what dumplings were or didn’t understand the significance of Asian families and their food.
I actually don't understand how white people didn't "get" the movie
The bao being her dream about her actual son isn't a Chinese cultural thing, it's a basic "language of cinema" thing
Do people just see something that looks "foreign" and their brains turn off https://t.co/aZYZDLFOkH
— Arthur Chu (@arthur_affect) February 25, 2019
Yu seemed quite ecstatic about Bao’s newfound success, however.
So this tweet aged well.
— William Yu (@its_willyu) February 25, 2019
Asian entertainers, creators, and activists were ecstatic to see representation at an awards ceremony that often leaves their people overlooked or disregarded.
BAO wins the #Oscar for best animated short. I've been waiting xiaolong for this to happen.
— Justin Chang (@JustinCChang) February 25, 2019
— Kimmy Yam (@kimmythepooh) February 25, 2019
I normally report on quite heavy topics so it was so nice to be on @BBCWorld with @BBCKasiaMadera just now talking about the #Pixar short #Bao winning at #Oscars and why that makes me very optimistic about audience support of authentic art from Asian creators. Clip 1: pic.twitter.com/aM1qVjr7ML
— Joanna Chiu 趙淇欣 (@joannachiu) February 25, 2019
Even Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau offered support for the short film.