Why Crazy Rich Asians is Important to Me as a White Woman

When I went to see Crazy Rich Asians on a rainy Tuesday night, I had no clue what to expect. Truthfully, I had only seen the trailer maybe once. However, the hype around the movie started long before I could remember. It centered around one thing: representation. The film, adapted from the popular book by Kevin Kwan, follows the story of Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American Economics professor, and her discovery that her boyfriend, Henry Young, belongs to one of the richest families in Malaysia. The two travel back to Henry’s home in Singapore for his best friend’s wedding, and Rachel is swept up in the luxury of a life filled with crazy rich Asians.

This movie comes a year after the giant success of Black Panther. Following in suit of the Black Panther black cast and crew, Crazy Rich Asians was created with an Asian director and cast. The characters portrayed by director Jon Chu are anything but their stereotypes; They are layered and complex. Not to mention, the movie is shot beautifully, and now I have the biggest girl crush on Constance Wu.

Over the years, Hollywood has consistently missed the mark by whitewashing characters like in the case of Aloha, a movie that claimed to reflect a rich Polynesian culture but ultimately cast Emma Stone for a character who was supposedly half-Asian. And although small indie and arthouse films have tackled the issue of representation for minorities in movies, they simply don’t come close to the power and influence of multi-million dollar blockbusters. So, why don’t we have more movies that actually showcase different people, cultures and experiences? The sad reality is that although Hollywood is one of the most influential institutions we have, some of the big companies move slowly when it comes to changing with the times.

Here’s what I think: Representation is so dang important. Revolutionary, right? It’s easy to understand how and why Crazy Rich Asians is important for Asian culture. Seeing people on the screen who look like you and are reflecting parts of your life is an indescribable feeling. I use “indescribable” purely because it is indescribable to me. I have taken the experience of really connecting with a movie or TV show for granted because I see women who look like me and reflect my life all the time. How many times have I seen a movie about a love story between a white man and a white woman? With this logic, I can basically say that Fifty Shades of Grey and A Walk to Remember are the same to me. You get it yet? As a white woman in America, I have my own uphill battle, but tailored media is just not one of them.

 In 2016, only 3 percent of roles in Hollywood went to Asian actors or actresses. Crazy Rich Asians is the first major studio project to have a predominantly Asian cast in 25 years. The last movie was The Joy Luck Club that was released in 1993. To put that in perspective, that’s a longer time than I have been on this Earth.

The bottom line is that representation should matter to everyone because it affects everyone. Being white does not mean I should only watch movies with predominantly white casts. The job of movies and TV is to echo the human experience, whether that is through a crazy intense African hero, a rich Asian family or anything in between.

Crazy Rich Asians is just the beginning.