Why the Movie “Crazy Rich Asians” is Important

When was the last time you saw a minority on the big screen and was not playing the sidekick or the insanely racist character who lives down the hall? I’m sure, since the past few years, you could name less than 20 movies. How do you think it would feel if movies didn't portray your race or color in an appropriate or accurate way? For some, it’s an everyday occurrence.

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I’m an Asian-American who was adopted from Kazakhstan (please don’t mention Borat to me) and moved to America with my parents when I was 2 years old. Growing up all I remember was that I was watching shows and movies with people who did not look like me, and for some reason, it didn't seem to matter. Which, of course, is normal because I was a young child and I didn't have the intellectual ability to grasp what it meant to have a person to look up to, who looks like me. This is the power of the movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” While this film features actors with East Asian descent, it has made a huge impact on the Asian-American community. The New York Times said, “The last time a major Hollywood film set in the present day showcased a majority Asian cast was a whopping 25 years ago, with “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.” Before “The Joy Luck Club” there was the 1961 film, “Flower Drum Song.” So, before the release of “Crazy Rich Asians,” there were only two other full Asian cast films. What’s up with that?

 

The last 10 years or so, the media has been through a whirlwind of backlash because of whitewashing a bunch of race-specific roles. Which is why “Crazy Rich Asians” is groundbreaking. The director himself is an Asian-American, and when he opened casting calls he only asked for Asian-Americans actors to audition. Even more exciting was that this movie is a romantic comedy, a genre in film that has been dominated by Caucasians for decades. 

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There are about 4 million Asians in the world, so why is it so hard to cast them in movies, when the role does not have a specific race? USC’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative did a study where they found that out of the top 900 films made in 2016, 29.2% of all characters were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, “which is well below the U.S. Census (38.7%).” Also, nearly two-thirds of the top 100 films didn't have an Asian female speaking character. But that is slowly changing. 

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Constance Wu, who played Rachel Chu the main character, opened up about how this movie is so important. She said, "Before ['Crazy Rich Asians'], I hadn't even done a tiny part in a studio film… I never dreamed I would get to star in one...because I had never seen that happen to someone who looked like me." Many of us Asian-American’s can relate to her statement. While I am not East Asian, it is beautiful to see that we are finally moving up and starting to realize that rom-coms aren’t strictly for white people. “Crazy Rich Asians” isn’t the only this movie that has starred empowering, strong, female Asian leads. In the Netflix original movie, Set It Up, the character Kristen, who is the editor of an online sports journalism empire, is played by Lucy Liu. Which is a very important role for an Asian-American actress to play. Another romantic comedy that is breaking the internet, is another Netflix original movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. A teenage romantic comedy, that as an Asian-American girl play the main character who has different love interests. These 3 movies have made a huge impact for the Asian community in the United States. While I still believe we have a long ways to go, I am happy to know that we have these 3 movies to lean on. 

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