Today is the premier of the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”! Did you read the book? It’s a fantastic summer read and the movie has tracked 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. And it’s a really important movie.
So this is the first all-Asian leading cast in a major motion picture in the U.S. in 25 years — and it has nothing to do with martial arts nor does it center around an immigrant family’s mahjong table. In fact, it is a standard rom-com full of gossipy, pretty, shallow people. In other words, a movie that would otherwise be played by white actors. Growing up as an Asian-American in the ‘70s and ‘80s and being one of the few brown kids in my predominantly white community and white schools was a challenge. I rarely got to see people who looked like me and my family, and the standard for beauty and the “norm” or what was valued in society was established for me in real life and then reinforced in media. All I saw on TV and movies were white girls, and they got all the boys, all the goodies and got to be the star of their story, so as a girl and young adult, all I wanted to be was a white girl. I wanted round eyes, a pointy nose, and most of all I wanted white skin. In fact, my parents were always trying to get me to drink milk, and one day my dad told me that if I drank milk, I’d turn white – listen, I guzzled that stuff and all I got was a tummy ache ‘cuz most Asians are lactose intolerant. Anyway, Asian representation in media is important. To date, we’ve only seen one Asian at a time thrown into a cast– like there’ll be The One (Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, etc.), but a whole cast? Never! And we Asian chicks usually get to play the best friend or the super smart nerdy girl. But the romantic lead? What?! Plus CRA has a bunch of gorgeous Asian men, who are not typically known as the hot guys! It’s happening in this movie – like 10 John Chos (so underrated and never got his due)! I came to appreciate my culture and how I looked only later in life. For Asians it’s important to see people like us — a whole lot of us — not just in accounting firms or engineering schools, but also on screen behaving in universal ways. Asians are not a monolith; some of us are vegan athletes even! Listen, even if you don’t want to make this statement, go see the movie for its gorgeous clothing and locations. But if you do want to support the Asian community (that would be me), then know this: There is a whole slew of movies led by Asian casts that are in development and/or waiting to be greenlit depending on how well this movie does. So in this way, CRA is a seminal point.
P.S. My t-shirt lists the first names of all the white actors/actresses who’ve played Asian roles. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. So let me say it one more time for the people in the back: Go see Crazy Rich Asians!