Why Michelle Yeoh’s 'Chinese Malaysian' accent In Star Trek made a fan cry

Fans criticism on Twitter
Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek
Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek

IT is a proud moment for Malaysians to see our Ipoh-born actress playing the lead role for Star Trek: Discovery.

Yeoh plays Captain Philippa Georgiou of USS Shenzhou in the upcoming premiere of the series and this time around there is more diversity than ever with its cast.

In its trailer premiere, Yeoh and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) walk over the sandy dunes of a remote planet, before beaming up to a Starfleet vessel.

Wandering around the planet in Star Wars-esque attires, she says: "It's hard to imagine you've served under me for seven years. Commander Burnham I think it is time we talked about you having your own command."

It is immediately noticeable how Yeoh kept true to her identity, which left some Trekkie fans around the world criticising her accent.

Nevertheless, Swapna Krishna of Blastr.com, penned how Yeoh's lines delivered in "Chinese Malaysian" accent made her cry.

"This line might seem innocuous, and it is. But that didn't stop me from bursting into tears the second I heard Yeoh deliver the line. Why? Because Michelle Yeoh kept her accent."

Krishna recounted moments as a child where she felt that she was represented through dark-skinned characters of the franchise like Uhura and Sulu, just how Mexican actor Diego Luna's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story appearance touched a fan who reacted so gratefully to his thick accent.

"I saw people that looked a little like me — that shared the first thing people notice about me, a darker skin colour — and for the first time understood that I could achieve anything, even serve on a starship. I, and people who looked like me, existed in this future. It was one of the major forces that shaped my childhood and the adult I have become.

"When they began to announce casting for Star Trek: Discovery, the child in me was thrilled. Not only would one of the starship captains be a woman of colour, but she was Asian. Not South Asian like I am — Michelle Yeoh is Chinese Malaysian — but it began to feel like Star Trek was finally embracing the global population Starfleet purported to represent. I was excited."

Krishna states that the accent Yeoh delivered mattered to her as it reminded her of the immigrants living in the country, including her parents.

"The fact is, many people — and many Americans — speak like Michelle Yeoh does, with a bit of an accent. That's okay. We're a multicultural country, and we should celebrate our differences. We're a country of immigrants. In this political climate, it's so important to remember that. And Star Trek: Discovery is giving us another reminder of what we value. It's the show we need right now.

"I still can't watch the trailer without being overcome with emotion when Michelle Yeoh's character says her first words. I know she's a recurring star, not a series regular, but that's okay. The fact that she exists in this universe is enough for me," Krishna said.

Yeoh acknowledged Krishna's moving article and responded to a line wondering "if it was something the actress fought for, or it was designed that way" – to which the actress responded on her Facebook posting "It was a conscious effort," that she kept her accent throughout her role.

Last month, executive producer of the show Bryan Fuller explained: "Star Trek would continue to be a franchise that celebrated diversity, citing some groundbreaking examples from the upcoming show.

"We were very adamant early on about that cast, not just in terms of race but also in terms of gender."

Guess having an accent is just another identity of a person which defines them. Like our hair colour, the clothes we wear, it amplifies our personality and remains a huge part of ourselves, our heritage that we should be proud of.

We applaud Michelle Yeoh in embracing her Malaysian roots and inspiring many others around the world to do so too!

Watch the video here:

This article first appeared in Malaysian Digest