All the major Asian characters of my childhood movies and TV shows were either kung fu masters, living in Imperial China, or both. I still continue to rewatch them today, but, as a Taiwanese American girl from the suburbs of Jersey, it was tough seeing my own life reflected in these works.
Crazy Rich Asians is a glitzy rom-com with a huge focus on family, culture, fashion, and friendship. It’s essentially the ultimate fulfillment for Asian Americans who grew up loving teen dramas, and I loved every second of it.
It is the most I’ve ever identified with Asian characters on screen. Even more, I saw all sorts of people in my life being given a voice too.
I saw parts of my life being put into film, from experiences that every girl can relate to, like Araminta emulating an early college student who’s ready to get lit or Peik Lin being the brash best friend we always go to for advice, to experiences that are unique to the Asian American experience. (Introducing formerly skeptical, and possibly grossed-out, friends to Asian foods and seeing their surprise and delight in trying and liking something new was practically routine at one point in my life.)
Little universal Asian American anecdotes are scattered throughout the movie, and it just goes to show the detail that was put into this movie. These stories really serve to distinguish the difference between Asian Americans and Asians who grew up in their motherland, and it emphasizes that we should not all be lumped in the same category.
It also brought light to the bond between Asian American children and their mothers; as of late, Asian mothers are almost always stereotyped as Tiger Moms, but Crazy Rich Asians proved that they are so much more. The scene where Rachel’s mom sought to comfort her daughter brought me to tears, because it’s something that my own mom does. Nick’s mother could have also been easily portrayed as a villain, but the depth that Michelle Yeoh brings to this character prevents viewers from simply viewing her as the bad guy.
It’s the kind of movie I wish people saw when I was in my middle school years, when misunderstandings about my heritage were commonplace, and sometimes portrayed in a negative light. Maybe if this movie had been a part of my childhood, I wouldn’t have been made fun of for liking bubble tea. Imagine making fun of someone for liking bubble tea now! (Okay, maybe you would make fun of a friend for being basic, but bubble tea used to be considered weird. You get my vibe?)
Seeing the movie in theaters itself was also such a valuable communal experience. The crowd was full of people of Asian descent, but also people of many different races. It was proof that anyone is willing to laugh, cry, and cheer over an Asian narrative, and that Hollywood was wrong about initially wanting to change Rachel’s race to appeal to a “wider audience”. It was also just great to laugh together as characters regularly got roasted.
Aside from being a cultural centerpiece, Crazy Rich Asians also includes all the classic elements of a rom-com that we know and love, a makeover where a woman emerges looking like the best version of herself and not a different person, and absolutely gorgeous imagery that shows off a life of opulence. These elements make the movie comforting and familiar, but it’s also new because of the characters and culture they’re portraying.
Of course, it’s not a complete solution for all of the nuances that a movie featuring an all-Asian cast would be put under scrutiny for. However, it is a win for all minorities. It’s another brick on top of the foundation movies like Black Panther and Get Out laid down to show that token minority characters are a missed opportunity. We can all benefit from a good story, and in 2018, a good story can have Asian representation in it too.
Seeing Crazy Rich Asians really drove home the point that Asian representation matters. Take me for example; I never would’ve even dreamed of working for a fashion blog until I saw Jenn Im start her own YouTube channel.
Crazy Rich Asians hits US and Canada theaters August 15th. For a complete schedule of international release dates, click here.