Two things inspired us to make Parachute Girls:
1. Growing up, I always wanted a sister. The sisters I knew always seemed to be sharing some secret language, some shorthand for communication. Pushing each other down the stairs one minute, and laughing hysterically the next. A love/hate relationship that is bound by blood. As an actress, I wanted to explore sisterhood and what it means when you’re bound so closely to someone with a shared history.
2. Growing up, I had some friends and cousins who were “parachute kids” – kids whose wealthy parents sent them from overseas to the U.S for school. To me, they seemed to have the coolest life – a world without adult supervision and lots of partying. Now that I’m older, I wonder, What would I have done in their place? How did growing up without a mother or father present affect their self worth as children, and did it affect their ambition in life? Currently, the effects of the parachute kid phenomenon are being targeted by more and more sociologists, and studies examining the negative effects of being parentless and rich are coming out.
Parachute Girls explores what happens when your ideal of “family” doesn’t match up to your reality. When your sister is your mother, or your friend is your brother; when your parents are merely shadows of a memory who materialize through money and gifts sent from afar. Beneath all this lie questions of immigration and assimilation – how people of color in the U.S. can sometimes whitewash and conform themselves in order to belong – to a society that’s full of well-meaning people who often unknowingly reinforce the very racist and classist ideals they’re politically against. All this…over dinner. Specifically, Parachute Girls is a short look into the lives of two Taiwanese parachute kids – sisters who were essentially abandoned by their parents when they sent them off to school in the U.S. – and how they each adapted (or didn’t at all) to white, upper-middle-class suburban America without a family. We explore issues of family and belonging, as well as race, class, and identity in the U.S. – topics that are, for better or worse, constants in today’s headlines. But more than just social phenomena, these characters are people we know – our neighbors, our friends, our cousins.
This project is the product of a collaboration between myself and actress Lynn Chen. It started as a running joke about how we are long lost sisters from New Jersey, and over the years of our friendship developed into a genuine creative collaboration based on our shared experiences as Asian American actresses, our sister-like friendship, and our Taiwanese heritage and upbringing.
– EMILY C. CHANG
For more on the parachute kid phenomenon, check out these links:
NPR Coverage: “Chinese Teens Attend U.S. Schools”
NBC: “Parachute Kids: A Hard Landing in American Schools”
LA Times: “Teens’ Attack on Draws Comparison to ‘Lord of the Flies’ from Judge”
PRI: “Violent Attack Raises Concerns About Parachute Kids