Having to unpack all the cultural relevance and anticipated representation in Crazy Rich Asians would be as difficult as convincing the story’s pretentious character Eddie Cheng to shop at a second-hand store: There’s no point in even trying.
But while it’s near-impossible to fully address all the excitement, progressiveness, and even backlash that will come with such a culturally impactful film, there is one thing that should easily be agreed on: Asians need to support the movie.
Watch it at least once. Maybe twice. Bring a friend or three. Maybe even take your mom too as long as she promises not to spend the whole night complaining about how cold the theatre is.
We’re in a generation now where questioning our own identity is becoming more prevalent. As Asians having grown up in North America, it’s no surprise that many have begun to think about how they can be more proactive in connecting with their cultural roots — and that doesn’t just mean drinking more bubble tea or shopping at T&T.
Like Jackie Chan who once kept yelling “Who am I?” in the classic 1998 film of the same name, Asian millennials in 2018 are now continually asking themselves: “Who am I … really?!”
We should be wanting to learn more about our cultural identity. We should be wanting to embrace our heritage. We should be wanting to hear stories and listen to others with similar and different backgrounds. And through the creation of books and movies like Crazy Rich Asians — ones by Asians, for the world — the doors are slowly opening wider for that to happen.
Take a look at Wong Fu Productions and the impact they have had in connecting with the North American Asian community over the last 15 years. As the co-founding producers commented during a Q&A session at their Yappie Tour stop in Vancouver, they recognized the lack of Asian representation in media while they were setting out on their original intentions of creating fun videos. They weren’t trying to be the voice of Asians everywhere. And they aren’t. And that’s fine. We still need more of their stories, their creativity, and their perspectives.
As much as I enjoyed author Kevin Kwan’s emphatic story telling or director Jon M. Chu’s extravagant depiction, supporting the movie has nothing to do with supporting the over-the-top lifestyles portrayed in the Crazy Rich Asians story. It’s not that we should be trying to connect with the superficial message in the movie, but rather we should be celebrating the fact that Asians are telling their own stories with their own voice to a global audience.
This movie is a step in the right direction for Asian creatives and for Asian representation in Hollywood. If Asians don’t support a film that seemingly plays by Hollywood rules, where money talks, then how can future film projects with full Asian leading casts be as easily justified?
If the community itself doesn’t support their own, why would studio heads have vested interest in pursuing more films that feature strong Asian actors and stories — ideally ones which are more “relatable” to the general Asian public?
These are unfortunate questions, but are all too real — considering how it’s still a big deal when Asians are featured in a spotlight typically reserved for the Caucasian look.
As first- and second-generation Asian-North Americans age, we are seeing an acceptance of Asians pursuing writing, art, entertainment, sports (’sup, Jeremy Lin!) and other professions that don’t relate to the stereotypical medicine, business, finance, or law.
For those who went the way of the classic make-dad-proud careers but wished they had done something different, be excited that the upcoming generation can see that there are more opportunities to embrace the “riskier” artistic side, and that being a story teller shouldn’t be frowned upon. For those who suffered through the so-called shame of not pursuing stereotypical North American Asian professions but rather followed their dreams, be excited too. The way is being paved by those like you for future Asian creatives — making it easier for them to tell their stories their way.
For all of us as Asian consumers in whatever “category” you might find yourself, be excited for this movie — that we can now proactively and tangibly voice our support, and show that we care about stories which talk about our culture.
Be excited about your identity. It’s your story. And it’s our job as a community to keep telling it, or at the least supporting those who want to tell it — much like the creators of Crazy Rich Asians and the grand platform they’ve been given.
Hosea Cheung is a former journalist and editor at a Canadian media outlet and spent time in Beijing, China, as an English multimedia editor for a national publication. Back home in Vancouver now, he co-founded Spotlight West Communications — a public relations agency specialized in bridging the Chinese and English communities — and also serves as an editor at Cold Tea Collective.
Read more of our articles about Asian representation here:
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