Crazy Rich Asians is the Hollywood breakthrough film that Asian Americans need. Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing Asian actors Constance Wu and Henry Golding on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, decked out in extravagant jewelry. In an era when Hollywood gives ethnic minorities #OscarsSoWhite, Kevin Kwan’s glamorous film adaptation is, hopefully, further proof that Asians should not be typecast any further in mainstream media. Although there’s no teaser trailer yet, Warner Bros has announced the film’s release date to be in August 2018.
What I love about the premise of the film is it showcases diversity in the Asian American experience. As the protagonist, Rachel, portrayed by Constance Wu, explores her boyfriend’s high-society life in Singapore, she’s faced with a strong culture shock as she attempts to fit in with the “crazy rich” lifestyle. Even though she has Chinese roots, Rachel’s return to Asia is a different reality than what she previously expected.
Despite the significance of the protagonist’s culture shock, Kwan previously shared that a producer tried to whitewash Rachel’s role by changing her into a white girl. Time and time again, producers, directors and film executives have completely diminished the value of a cultural story by selecting actors that are seemingly marketable to an audience.
As an American-born Asian like Rachel, the Western myth that perpetuates the continent has given me a preconceived picture of my parents’ country, Vietnam. It’s beautiful, people have told me, but it’s also a developing country. The Western narrative has made the Eastern world exotic and strange, yet Crazy Rich Asians, Kwan said, is his introduction of contemporary Asia to a North American audience.
And why the buzz surrounding this film? Crazy Rich Asians is the first film featuring an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993.
Media representation is a step forward in celebrating the diversity of Asian culture. Crazy Rich Asians takes place in Singapore, an island colonized by the British, which holds a diverse Asian population. Around 75 percent of Singaporeans are Chinese, with Malaysian, Indian and Eurasian minorities.
We can’t predict what will happen at the box office yet, but with films showcasing a largely underrepresented demographic, there’s the potential that the target audience will flock to the theaters.
Take for example Girls’ Trip, a successful summer comedy featuring four women of color. There’s also the anticipation of Black Panther from Marvel Studios next year, which features a compelling cast and plenty of action and energy. Finally, The Lion King’s action remake just released a high-profile cast with protagonists played by Beyoncé and Donald Glover.
As more and more studios are viewing the successes of diverse casting, it’s time that Asian American actors, producers and directors also get their time in the limelight.
Terry Nguyen is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the news assignments editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Fémmoirs,” runs every other Monday.
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