“Crazy Rich Asians” brings diversity to the big screen

Film breaks barriers and box office records

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Ever since I was old enough to watch Hollywood entertainment, I’ve struggled to find an actor who looked like me and represented my ethnicity.

The few times I did encounter Asian Americans in films and TV shows, they often embodied racist stereotypes or had irrelevant roles.

So, it’s easy to imagine my excitement when I found out that “Crazy Rich Asians,” a movie with an entirely Asian/Asian American cast, would premiere in theaters.

Naturally, I went to see it on opening day with my sister and when we both came out, we were bawling like babies, not only because it was a dramatic story that pulled at our heartstrings, but because for the first time in our lives, an American film had made us feel proud to be Asian.

“Crazy Rich Asians” follows the story of NYU economics professor, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her boyfriend, wealthy heir and bachelor Nick Young (Henry Golding), as she accompanies him to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore.

Rachel is wholly unprepared for the scrutiny she faces as she meets Nick’s family and the jealous socialites clamoring for her position as Nick’s girlfriend.

Despite the serious storyline, the film succeeds in maintaining a lighthearted tone that leaves the audience laughing frequently throughout. The movie is set in Singapore and showcases a flamboyant celebration of luxury and money while also paying homage to morals and traditions essential to Asian culture.

“Although the movie features the top 1% of wealthy Asians, I feel like it still did a good job depicting aspects of Asian culture. The dumpling making scene was so accurate, and I could really relate to the movie’s message of how important it is to respect the elders in our families,” said junior Emily Rhee.

The empowerment that came with knowing that my culture was appropriately and respectfully represented in a mainstream Hollywood movie is difficult to articulate.

Growing up, when your encounters with Asian Americans in the entertainment industry are limited to squinting and unattractive men speaking with exaggerated accents and broken English, or the rebellious and often sexualized female character with a blue streak of hair and wearing all black clothing, or the classic studious nerd with minimal social skills and an obsession with being a perfect student, having pride for your culture is difficult.

“I hadn’t thought about the significance of having an all Asian cast before [watching “Crazy Rich Asians”] because it never occurred to me that some people felt underrepresented. But I was amazed by the impact of this movie.” said senior Cece McNeely.

This is the first movie to feature a predominantly Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993, and it’s hard to overstate the significance of the success of this film.

Asians have faced a pattern of underrepresentation in the entertainment industry, and even in movies specifically written for leads with Asian or Pacific Island backgrounds, Caucasians have played these roles. Scarlett Johansson was accused of whitewashing when she took on the main role in “Ghost in the Shell,” a movie based on a Japanese manga series and originally adapted in 1995 as a Japanese animated film.

Emma Stone also played a character who was a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese in the movie “Aloha,” despite
not representing either of these ethnicities. “Asian Americans are rarely represented in the entertainment industry, and because of recent concerns about washing Asian cultures, it’s especially important ow to have a movie with a predominantly Asian cast that was so successful,” said senior Hannah
Kadin.

“Crazy Rich Asians” exceeded expectation and took the top spot at ox offices its opening weekend. As if September 12, it earned $139.8 million in domestic grosses, making it the biggest romantic comedy since “The Proposal” in 2009.

Perhaps more notable than the movie’s financial success is its influence drawing immigrants to theaters.

First-generation Asian Americans tend to shy away from the crowds and language barriers, but it seems that this movie has succeeded in bridging a generation gap in our society.

“I enjoyed the movie’s ability to bring people closer together. I went to see it with my mom and sister, and now my mom is going to teach us both Mahjong,” said senior Alexis Woodrick.

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