Crazy Talented All-Asian Cast: Why Crazy Rich Asians Matters to Me

 

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Courtesy of Study Breaks Magazine

It’s a tale as old as time: A young woman falls in love with a man only to realize he is extremely wealthy and his prim and proper family disapproves. If I heard this plot summary a few months ago, I would absolutely have thought of a Caucasian cast set in a fancy European castle. But now all I can think of is an all-Asian cast, a story filmed in Singapore and Malaysia, and Asians portrayed as actual three-dimensional characters. On August 15th, 2018, I will be ready to sit back and watch a cliche plot with an original spin. This is why Crazy Rich Asians matters.

Crazy Rich Asians was originally a book written by Kevin Kwan in 2013 before being turned into a movie this upcoming summer. The protagonist, Rachel Chu, learns her boyfriend, Nick Young, is extremely wealthy when she accompanies him to a wedding in Singapore. Rachel has to learn to survive the pressures of dating one of Singapore’s most eligible bachelors while balancing the immense disapproval from Nick’s mother.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a hopeless romantic-comedy fanatic. I’ve watched countless love stories from the classic Clueless to Crazy, Stupid Love to Friends with Benefits to The Duff. But unlike these movies, Crazy Rich Asians is relatable to me on a different level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably not falling in love with someone from one of the wealthiest families in Singapore, but a fantasy like this shows that race is not a limiting factor for a head-over-heels, love-at-first-sight, and a thousand other cliche-sayings kind of love.

Prior to the finalization of the cast, a producer wanted a White actress to play the protagonist, Rachel. I can’t fathom why anyone would think a movie titled Crazy Rich Asians would benefit from a White lead. Whitewashing has been all too prevalent in Hollywood. To far too many, it seems incomprehensible to portray a Caucasian character with an Asian actor but perfectly okay to do the opposite. Which brings me to my next point…

An all-Asian cast. Let me just repeat it again. All-Asian cast. No nerdy Asian boy playing the bully victim. No piano prodigy with an SAT workbook in her hand. Just a group of amazing, kickass actors and actresses playing multidimensional characters. The stereotypical Asian character with a tiger mom has propagated stereotypes for long enough. Finally, in the film industry, there is an accurate representation of Asian-Americans: we’re all absolutely different. After this movie, Hollywood can’t push Asians into one category anymore. After this movie, the saying, “Asians can’t act so that’s why white actors and actresses have to play those roles” is absolutely negated.

There’s the nerdy stereotype, but then there’s also the Kung-Fu stereotype. From where I stand, Asians have either played the geek in glasses or the ancient Kung-Fu master dressed in black robes. And unless the fact that I occasionally have to wear glasses and sometimes dress in black counts, none of these two options can relate to me. I don’t know about you, but I watch movies because it’s an unrealistic world full of relatable characters. It never seemed fair that other races could play so many different roles yet Asian-Americans were stuck in a box of stereotypes. Finally, I can take a baseball bat to that box and break open the thousands of different types of Asian-Americans there are in America. I’m not defined by one trait. I’m not an East High School student pre-Gabriella Montez. I can be studious and a hopeless romantic and a volleyball player. If I’m not a one-dimensional character, why should other Asian-Americans be portrayed this way in film?

I can’t help but smile and check off boxes from a mental list containing what’s being changed in the world of cinema. Black Panther came out and shattered box offices with the sheer amount of people wanting to watch the fate of Wakanda. Now the first romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast and second movie ever with an all-Asian or predominantly Asian cast (the first being the Joy Luck Club) is in the process of being released. I’m genuinely excited to see what other barriers we can break down. After all, if art imitates life, I expect girls to grow up wanting to be as strong as Wonder Woman, the LGBT+ community to hope for the true love in Love, Simon, and Asian-Americans to step out from the stereotypical role of the glasses-wearing nerd and into whatever role they please.

I can’t tell you if this film will be a masterpiece or a rotten tomato, but just the fact that it was filmed and cast in this manner is a step in the right direction. I love the idea that young Asian-American children won’t just grow up surrounded by the idea that a romantic-comedy-esque type love is limited to Caucasians. With the allure of a romanticized city, the fantastical idea of love, and the avant-garde all-Asian cast, Crazy Rich Asians matters to me because this is my dream movie.

 

-Joanne Wang