It was my duty as an Asian American to see Crazy Rich Asians.
Now I suppose it’s my duty to write about it.
I want to start out by saying I truly dislike articles that seem hell bent on complaining about something awesome.
CRA is awesome. It’s fun. It’s moving. It’s entertaining. It’s beautiful. It’s a true Hollywood film.
It’s important. I’m sure you’ve heard a ton about representation. Maybe you understand the gravity of this movie’s success in relation to future films with Asian actors in starring roles.
Personally, it does feel empowering to see Asian faces on the big screen.
But here’s where I’m going to do the thing that I hate. I’m going to air some grievances.
There is a deep complexity to being Asian in America. Most of it has to do with a very similar occurrence that happens within the Hispanic community and to a quite different extent, the Black community.
White America does not consider what country you or your family might be from if you speak Spanish. White America assumes if you’re Black than you are African.
White America does not see the difference between anyone they perceive as East Asian or South Asian. A Chinese person is not different from a Japanese person. An Indian person isn’t different than a Pakistani person.
So when White America watches Crazy Rich Asians, they are once again given one very small glimpse into Asia. Specifically, Singapore. Not to mention, a Singapore that is very privileged. It would be like saying Silicon Valley could be used as an example of how the rest of the U.S. looks and feels.
While CRA is under zero obligation to represent the wide range of Asia and Asians, as a fourth generation Japanese American, I’m still not seeing someone who is an accurate reflection of me. I do not get the benefit of relating on an even fundamental level to any of the characters of a movie filled with faces that look like mine.
In the article “The Problem with Crazy Rich Asians is That It’s Not Actually About Us”, I thought I was going to find some camaraderie. Instead, the author starts off by talking about the “lunch room” moment in which you are ridiculed by your classmates by bringing weird looking/smelling ethnic food to school.
I didn’t have a “lunch room” moment because my mom ate meatloaf and tuna noodle casserole growing up and so did I.
My parents are not immigrants. My paternal grandmother was born in Washington. My family, most of whom were U.S. citizens, were interned during World War II.
While I don’t expect an entire feature film about a family like mine, I’m somewhat salty about the amount of enthusiasm I must feign to finally see two Asian leads, despite the fact that I have almost zero in common with their characters.
I’ve decided the only movie that could possibly address this situation would be one about how, as Asians, we are all treated the same, we are all called Chinks, we have all had some asshole pull the corner of their eyes to mock us, we have had “Ni hao” and “Konichiwa” yelled at us by strangers, someone has bowed to us, someone has mentioned geishas, ninjas, and sushi to us, someone has told us they taught English in Japan.
Someone always wants to know where we’re from and WHAT we are even though they don’t actually know what either of those things mean, nor do they actually care.
A movie about Asian Americans would be a movie about what it’s like to be an Asian in America. We’re not all tiger moms who play mahjong and insist red is a lucky color.