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How Margaret Cho Inspired Andrew Ahn to Make Spa Night

How Margaret Cho Inspired Andrew Ahn to Make Spa Night

andrew ahn

The queer director of Spa Night reveals how a headline about Cho gave him confidence to finish his movie. 

Andrew Ahn, the queer director and writer of Spa Night,didn't know a lot of gay Koreans when he was growing up.

Ahn, whose film was awarded the U.S. Grand Jury Prize by the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival, says he had to look to artists working in other mediums besides film to see his identity -- gay, Korean -- reflected because there weren't enough films in the LGBT canon about people like him.

While speaking at The Atlantic's Race and Justice Summit in Los Angeles Thursday, Ahn said that it wasn't until he was in college and coming to terms with his gay identity that he asked himself, "Do I know any gay Korean people?"

"I realized I didn't and that the only person I could think of was Margaret Cho -- as a queer Korean American," he said. Ahn didn't know her personally when he was developing the screenplay for Spa Night, but during that time, he stumbled across a news story about the actress-comedian that inspired him to finish his award-winning film.

Much of Spa Night takes place in a Korean spa in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. That is why when the filmmaker came across an article about Cho getting kicked out of a Korean spa, he couldn't help but take it as a sign.

Ahn says he was inspired by Cho because despite expectations or stereotypes people may have about what being Korean means, she is known for rocking tattoos and identifying as queer. It was because of her queerness that she was "being denied her Korean identity and ... for her, she had to fight for it more and that made her even more Korean."

"There is something about that that resonated with me so intensely and I was like I'm going to make this movie," Ahn said Thursday. "I need to make this movie."

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