I’m looking forward to this movie, right?
Every time I see the movie poster for the upcoming “Crazy Rich Asians” movie, I have to stop and take a photo of it for the ‘gram. I’ve seen the trailer so many times I know when all the claps happen. While waiting for a flight, I wandered around LAX looking for the special Entertainment Weekly cover with Constance Wu and Henry Golding. I bought the book a second time just for the paperback copy with the movie cover on it.
And I didn’t even like the book.
Alright, to be fair, I did like the book. But I wasn’t really thrilled with it, and for all the positive things I’d heard about it, I was let down. …Yeah, I hear it too. The irony is pretty hard to miss. Because that’s the exact conundrum facing the movie right now: Is it over-hyped? Is it really going to be that good? I’m Asian American, do really I have to see just “for the culture”? Depending on who you are, I believe the answer to all of the above is yes. That’s why I’ve been trying my hardest to be a one-person hype woman for this dumb rom-com based off a book I didn’t even enjoy that much.
And I feel kinda stupid out here. I’m starting to sound like that East Asian whose only concern for the community is about media representation. I have so much blind faith in this movie, but after a while I’m not even sure what I’m cheerleading.
There are very real, very valid reasons to not like or look forward to this movie. Kirsten Han elaborated on many of those reasons in her piece for the Establishment, all of which are true. There’s a lot of East Asian dominance and imperialism and colonialism and classism in the book/ movie. It’s called “Crazy Rich Asians” but it’s really more like “Crazy Rich Ethnic Chinese Families.” The story misses a lot of context about Singapore and South East Asia, turning those places into a backdrop and not countries with people and history. The book/ movie does a lot of erasure, and for what? A (thin) rom com plot? So yeah, valid reasons to not want to see and support/ endorse this movie.
Ok, I said it, the book isn’t great. But it’s not the first book in twenty years to be written by an Asian author about Asian and Asian Americans. It just happened to be the one that Hollywood picked up — which, in my opinion, says more about the media powers that be. And the more I think about this book, movie, and the whole “Crazy Rich” trilogy, the more I realize you’re not supposed to take CRA at its word. It’s not an accurate description of anything.
Here’s the best way I can describe understanding this book: Instead of watching an Asian drama, you’re going to read an Asian drama. It’s all the tropes, all the bad speeches, all the ridiculous plot points, and especially all the unbelievable opulence of an Asian drama, just written down.
And I feel like that’s what’s missing from a lot of people’s understanding of this movie. It wasn’t supposed to be The Representation of anything — it’s a ridiculous Asian drama. It’s the basic rom-com scenario we’ve seen over and over again, just with a ton of Asian people. This movie should just be a fun, breezy, basic summer blockbuster type, but unfortunately it means so much more.
Obviously, I fully buy into the mindset of “Crazy Rich Asians has to succeed or else no other media will feature Asian Americans or Asians ever again.” I made a presentation about it. Because there’s no denying that it’s been 25 years since a major Hollywood movie had a majority-Asian American cast (the last one was The Joy Luck Club in 1993.) When whitewashing still happens, when people from the community aren’t allowed to tell their own stories without a white lead, when marginalized stories and experiences are just completely over looked, it means a lot to see a huge movie poster with Henry Golding and Constance Wu on it. Representation matters, I will fight anyone on this at any given time. And we need something. And, well, looks like “Crazy Rich Asians” is what we got. Is it the best? Certainly not. But it’s coming out in August so here we go…I guess.
Look, I am genuinely excited to see this movie, it’s not all stupid hype talk. I love this cast — really the only reason I have any faith in this movie at all is for its amazing cast. I’m convinced that (Wu and Golding aside, of course) Harry Shum Jr., Gemma Chan, and Ronny Chieng are going to carry this film/ franchise. And I’m not alone out here in trying to convince you that it’s a good movie; based off of early screenings, the Tweets look positive:
I hate that this movie is going to set the standard of What’s The Deal With Asians/ Asian Americans for the next quarter of a century. It’s a crazy hyperbolic portrayal of the community it’s trying to represent. Honestly, it shouldn’t have to set any standards, but it’s the shiny gold bar we have to work with now. So at the end of the day that’s why I’m pushing so hard for this movie to be a Win: We can’t let this be the final say in Asian American media. It should just be the first step (and I’m not talking about a sequel) in making and promoting and hyping and genuinely looking forward to more.
So please, if you can, join me on August 15 and enjoy Crazy Rich Asians. See you there.
PS: Stop calling Crazy Rich Asians the “Asian Black Panther.” Nope. Bu dui. That is false and not an accurate equivalency to make, as Karen Han explains in Teen Vogue.