What does it even mean to call someone a mother who mothers? These days, the word is being tossed around as a verb and title for any femme icon, regardless of offspring from Michelle Yeoh to Taylor Swift. Calling someone a “mother” these days is equivalent to the titles “legend,” “goat,” or “icon.”First, stemming from the LGBTQ+ community — mother or “mothering” has become widespread in its usage on the internet.
So this Mother’s Day, we’re taking the time to pay our respects not just to Asian Pacific Islander TV and film moms, but specifically the ones who went above and beyond for their children and ahem—mothered. If you’re looking for something to binge this Mother’s Day Sunday, here are 9 of our favorite API mother characters whose love for their kids will warm your hearts.
Emily Kuroda as Mrs. Kim in “Gilmore Girls” (the transformative mother)
Okay, hear us out. We all know Mrs. Kim started out as an incredibly flawed parent, and Lane constantly lied to her just to live a typical teenage American life. But let’s not forget though that she was an immigrant who was also raised in the same strict upbringing. What matters most is Mrs. Kim eventually learned to be a more accepting and empathetic mom — as she becomes more open to Lane’s interests and goals as the show progressed. Growth. We love to see it.
Poorna Jagannathan as Dr. Nalini Vishwakkumar in “Never Have I Ever” (the girlboss mother)
Nalina Vishwakkumar is a total girlboss—a successful dermatologist by day and a hardworking mother by night, and “Never Have I Ever” fans know exactly how hard it is to raise the bold and rebellious Devi. What’s more, is that Nalina has the strength to take care of Devi alone after the loss of her loving husband. She’s strict and hard-headed, but that doesn’t stop her from constantly trying to be better to her daughter.
Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson in “Young Rock” (the supportive mother)
Since Young Rock is based on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s actual childhood, we also have to give props to the real-life Ata Johnson. Dwayne Johnson once mentioned on The Kelly Clarkson Show that his mom is one of the “pillars” of his life, and it’s easy to see why in “Young Rock.” Watching Ata’s character continuously support not only her son, but the other members of the Johnson family, there’s no doubt she provides a nurturing role that can’t be replaced within the series.
Elodie Yung as Thony De La Rosa in “The Cleaning Lady” (the kick-butt mother)
There are many wild things parents are willing to do for their kids, but not many could reach Thony De La Rosa’s level. In order to get the proper treatment for her son’s rare condition, Thony hits the reset button on her life by immigrating to the States with an expired visa and goes from a surgeon to a cleaning lady for organized crime. And come on, being an accessory to murders and other illegal activities for your child’s health? A mother’s love truly is unconditional.
Jackie Chung as Laurel Park in “The Summer I Turned Pretty” (calm, cool, and collected mother)
Laurel Park could care less about tough love. Instead, she always reminds her kids how special they are—subverting the tropes of a typical “Tiger Mom” parent. What we love most is that although the show may be focused on teen romance, viewers still get to know Laurel not just as a mom, but as a best friend, ex-wife and a single woman living up a hot girl summer. Plus, after seeing her get high and dance at bars with her best friend Savannah, it’s safe to say she’s also probably the coolest mom on this list too.
Minha Kim as Sunja in “Pachinko” (the mother who stepped up)
It’s not like this is a competition in which mom’s been through the worst for their kids, but if there was someone most deserving of that title, Sunja from “Pachinko” would be up there. The young woman had nothing to her name when she started her life over as a Korean immigrant in Japan during one of the most brutal times of Japanese colonization—enduring racism and poverty in pursuit of a better life for her kids.No matter how hard things got, Sunja never let down her pride and determination.
Sandy Sharma as Huma Wadia in “Heartbreak High” (the “young” mother)
Huma Wadia is the kind of mom you could joke around, bicker, and yell with like a teenage girl, and Amerie isn’t afraid to express herself and show all of the messy and good parts of her personality throughout Heartbreak High. That doesn’t mean Huma isn’t going to put her foot down when it matters, though—like the time Amerie comes home late at night with one shoe. Most of the time, she maintains a good sense of humor and it’s refreshing to see when most teen shows don’t portray parents in such a nuanced way.
Han Ye-ri as Monica Yi in “Minari” (the resilient mother)
As Jacob Yi is causing problems and trauma left and right for his family after moving them from Korea to rural Arkansas in hopes of starting a farm, Monica becomes the glue that keeps her kids’ heads up high as her husband’s stubborn attitude turns relentless. Every decision she makes revolves around her children, although we can’t say for Jacob.
Soonja, the grandmother of the kids played by Yuh-Jung Youn, also gets extra mother points too for keeping the family sane. She keeps her spirits high despite leaving behind everything she knows to support her son-in-law’s dreams. The intimate moments between her and her grandson David played by Alan Kim are also some of the film’s most equally moving and humorous scenes.
Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang in “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (the ride-or-die mother)
Evelyn Wang may arguably be the most iconic mother of them all, so naturally, we’ve saved the best for last to crown her as QUEEN mother—the mother of all mothers you could say. The best part about this mother-daughter portrayal is that it reminds us that parents, just like their kids, can also grow and change for the better.
Mrs. Wang is a flawed family woman, but she proves by the film’s end that this mother deserves her flowers too. It may have taken a trip through multiverses and a threat of the world ending, but Evelyn proved she’ll do all she can for Joy, and ultimately learns how to love her right. She’s a prime example of a mother who will literally fight to the ends of the earth for their child.