Crazy Rich Asians heralds well-written Asian representation
Crazy Rich Asians, a truly entertaining rom-com, has scored at the box office. Directed by Jon M. Chu, director of Now You See Me 2 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the film immerses viewers into the sights and sounds of Singapore, taking them to the iconic Supertree Grove, eateries and more.
The beautiful, lavish dresses and accessories of the Singapore superrich are absolute delights to the eyes, with actors bringing great performances, giving life to the excellent writing.
However, beyond the glitz, the film touches upon some important topics, such as Asian-American representation in media, stereotypes against Asians, struggles that immigrants have and, most importantly, self-worth.
The movie centers around Rachel Chu, an economics professor. Born into a poor family and raised by a single mom, Rachel, a native New Yorker, fits the archetype of an American who follows one’s passion and lives their dream. However, everything changes once her boyfriend, Nick Young, invites her to Singapore to meet his family. To her surprise, she discovers that Nick is a part of Singapore’s richest family.
Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother, is a type of Asian mom who puts aside her own desires to maintain the heritage and reputation of her family. Although Rachel is totally unprepared to meet this crazy rich Asian family — especially Nick’s mom, who bashes Rachel right in front of her face — she manages to navigate the visit with resilience and grace.
Most significantly, the producers made an attempt to break typical Asian stereotypes. The movie opens wide with a scene where the Young family faces racism. They walk into an upscale hotel, trying to check in, however, the staff refuses to let them in. Ultimately, with several phone calls, the Young family meets the owner of the hotel. The racist staff, in disbelief, learns that the Young family will be taking over ownership of the hotel.
Asians, as portrayed sometimes in popular culture, are perceived as people who are just quiet and shy. Nonetheless, this scene flips the expectation – the Young family fights against the unfair treatment and shows how they can gracefully resolve the situation.
Based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name, the movie might seem like a typical, modern “Cinderella” story. However, it is more than just a movie to most Asian Americans who never had a chance to see Asian faces on the big screen. Since The Joy Luck Club in 1993, Crazy Rich Asians is the first modern Hollywood film that features an all-Asian cast.
Constance Wu, who plays Rachel, was especially outspoken about her hope for the influence Crazy Rich Asians would have on the representation of Asians in stories, issuing a statement on Twitter quoting Chu as saying, “this is more than a movie, it’s a movement.” With the impact that the film has brought to the table, it is more likely that there will be more future major films that similarly feature Asian characters.
Another significant element is that the movie is not afraid to open up about some aspects of Asian culture that can be considered flaws. For example, Eleanor is a representation of how some Asian parents, specifically of an older generation, value elders’ wishes over their own and would degrade an independent woman like Rachel for not having “enough qualities” to follow the rules set by themselves. In a USA Today article titled “Why ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Made Me Cry,” Jane Mo, a Korean-American, writes that it “allowed me to laugh at the common Asian family quirks I shamefully hid as a kid. It made me so proud of the food I used to quickly eat on the bus getting to school.” The best thing about Crazy Rich Asians is that it makes an attempt to make Asians be comfortable in their own skin and reveal all their quirks.
Last, but not least, Crazy Rich Asians, in the most touching way, depicts immigrant parents who sacrificed so much for their children; it is a reason for young Asian-Americans to come with their parents to see the movie.
The relationship between Rachel and her mom, Kerry, deepens throughout the film, as Rachel learns how much her mom has sacrificed for her.
Kerry, a real estate agent, flocked to the states to escape from her violent husband and to save her daughter. With the support of her parent, Rachel was able to pursue her dreams.
Crazy Rich Asians has received acclaim as an original and entertaining rom-com and grossed $26.5 million in its opening weekend. The core value that echoes throughout the film is self-worth. Mo writes, “I wish I had this movie when I was younger, to know that I am allowed to be as courageous and outspoken as Rachel, as resilient as Astrid and as fierce as Eleanor.”
The reason that Crazy Rich Asians feels original is because it embraces certain aspects that were long considered a stain as a result of their representation in society and media.
The film, rather than just representing Asians in a one-dimensional fashion, shows many other facets of Asian personality. The film is a must-see.