‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and Vulnerability

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and all the feelings I can’t seem to hold back.

A screenshot from Netflix's To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Source: Netflix

How’s it going? Did you wake up today thinking of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, too? Same. I don’t know where I’m going with this article, I don’t have an outline like I normally do, no notes, nothing — just an almost annoyingly overpowering desire to write something. I mean is that not who I am? Your friendly neighborhood geek, Lady Goose often needing to just ramble about why she loves the thing she loves so much? And yes, most of us here have reached day six of crushing on Peter Kavinsky, and swooning about it all over social media, but there’s so much more. At its core, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a story about gut wrenching vulnerability and absolute sincerity. It’s the kind of story I wish I was exposed to as a teenager in high school because in truth, it’s the first in a number of ways. Now here’s the thing, by no means am I trying to put down any of the rom-coms that came before this treasure — I live and breathe a John Hughes appreciation life, 13 Going on 30 is still the gift that keeps on giving and I will never stop loving A Cinderella Story. Plus, don’t get me started on The Princess Diaries. As a rom-com that features an Asian American lead, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before set bars impeccably high. (Seriously, though, my Asian American friends can finally see themselves in a lead as gorgeous as this, and I can’t seem to stop beaming over how amazing it is because a lot of them aren’t movie fanatics thereby, the excitement says it all. So yes, hello, here’s proof of how powerful diversity is! Yes. A thousand times yes!)

It did something not many have done, it brought in the greatest trope of all time, fake dating into the picture. Don’t even dare come at me, this is the best; sorry not sorry, I don’t make the rules. Now here’s the thing that makes each of the films mentioned above incomparably special — there’s undeniable authenticity in all of them, but with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before especially, there’s a greater sense of it due to how Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky fall in love. Fake dating. Fake dating. Fake dating. More time together. But I think, my favorite thing about this film is ultimately the valiant display of vulnerability — both on Lara Jean’s end and Peter’s.

We’re now living in a time where more and more people are actively voicing their concerns, heartaches, and fears despite the possibility of judgement that’ll follow. While thankfully mental health is no longer taboo as it used to be, it still isn’t easy to be as transparent as we’d all like to. That level of honesty is triggered from a sense of comfort when it becomes boldly evident that those in front of us won’t look at us differently because we’re expressing emotions. And that’s what I appreciated most about this film It allowed us to see that they’re both susceptible to insecurities. Both men and women, boys and girls feel things. Oh my God. There were moments throughout the film where that vulnerability was not only explored through consciously searching for answers, but it was on display for viewers to see at any given moment by the performances the actors put on. And I suppose dear readers, I want to get into talking about why I believe so many of us females are in love with Peter Kavinsky. RAW VULNERABILITY. I can only speak on behalf of myself here, but beyond the suave twirling and adorable glares, it’s Peter’s vulnerability that makes him dreamy and utterly remarkable. In truth, tremendous effort is required to put our true selves in front of another when we aren’t sure of how we’ll be received, but in the long run, it’s always better.  It’s everything. Human connections are heartened with sincerity, unwavering loyalty, and forthright vulnerability. It’s often in those quiet moments of transparency where we’re able to not only learn more about the person in front of us, but we’re able to better ourselves and our understanding of the whirlwind of emotions we’re often experiencing where love is concerned.

In an effort to write something coherent, dear readers, I’m failing royally here, but I want to write something, and not my usual scene by scene analysis that features a plethora of fangirl emotions. (Although, it’s taking everything in me not to do that because can we talk about how I melt every time Peter calls Lara Jean “Covey”? or that final, “You gonna break my heart, Covey?” Oh but wait, can we also talk about him fully respecting her agency in the end by telling her that he’ll only read the letter if she wants him to!) In a desire to be vulnerable with all of you, I suppose this is my letter to all the boys out there who are seemingly afraid of approaching girls and or being honest with about their feelings so terms like “ghosting” could go die in a fire. Yeah, I went there. And I suppose what I’m really trying to get at here is that I firmly believe that at this point, human connections between two people who may or may not have romantic feelings between them are getting harder to fortify because that vulnerability just isn’t there. Both parties are waiting for the other to say something, and let’s be honest here, not all girls want to be the first to do so. I’m all for equality, but my soul in this particular area is from another time, at least when the very first display of said affection is concerned. There’s nothing set in stone for things where the rest is concerned. And let’s be frank here, since the beginning of time, girls have always been more vulnerable thereby, tragically appearing like the “weaker” or more “emotional” half in the relationship. But hello yes, if vulnerability was an easy emotion to showcase men would be doing it, too. Shocking revelation I know.

So, for those wondering why no one seems to be able to shut up about Peter Kavinsky and “blah blah blah he’s everywhere we’re sick of it” mentality – here’s why. Or at least here’s what I think. He bares it all, profoundly and sincerely allowing Lara Jean to feel comfortable enough to let her guard down because she’s an angel we aren’t worthy of and a darling soul who deserves to be adored. Also, here’s the thing, by no means is this boy perfect, but there’s growth that takes place because of his interactions with her and that needs to be acknowledged. Anyway, life is too short to plan things out, think things through a 100 times over. And you’ve heard it all before a million times, but be brave enough to tell people how you feel, especially when those feelings are good. That’s just it, we don’t think twice about insulting someone, but heavens forbid we pack up the courage to actually say something kind.

Now, finally, dear readers, let’s take one final moment, because best for last, to talk about Lara Jean Covey and the choices she made to consistently remain true to herself. A strong female character isn’t a superhero, a strong female character is real, complex, and imperfect. And Lara Jean is all of them — she’s a dreamer, a fighter, a devoted sister, a great friend, a tiny fashionista, a sweet daughter, and a fierce inspiration. She’s afraid, she’s honest, she’s vulnerable, and she’s smart as heck. She’s a risk taker, she’s innocent, she’s confused, and she’s funny. She’s a tiny queen and Lana Condor exhibited each of those traits beautifully, bringing to life a character who’ll be adored by years to come. Lara Jean’s growth throughout the film has been my favorite aspect of it because as an example to younger girls in high school, she authenticates the fact that remaining true to yourself is the most important weapon any of us will ever have — our truth and our belief in ourselves. And the choice to do things we want to even when we’re afraid. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for when we hopefully get more films.

What are your thoughts on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before?

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