Since Ricky Yean first heard about “Crazy Rich Asians,” he has been excited to see the movie. And not because he likes romantic comedies (although, for the record, he does like them). For the Taiwanese-American, who came to the United States at age 11, it’s something he’s never seen: A movie from a large Hollywood studio with a cast of Asian-American and Asian actors. So when it opens on Wednesday, “I’ll definitely go and line up and make sure to see her and bring all my friends,” said the San Francisco resident.
But Sangeetha Thanapal will not do the same. Even though the film runs in his native Singapore, he says that everything he saw in the preview is a story centered on a specific subset of already well-represented Chinese-Singaporeans, who make up the majority of that country’s population, and no real reference. to minority communities like the Indian-Singaporean where your family comes from. “This movie is going to be global,” said Thanapal, who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, “and the idea of Singapore is that we do not exist in it.” Based on the first book of a successful trilogy by Kevin Kwan, “Crazy Rich Asians” is making it clear that “representation” can look different, depending on where you look at it.
The film revolves around Rachel Chu, a middle-class Chinese-American who travels with her Chinese-Singaporean boyfriend Nick Young to her best friend’s wedding and discovers that he and his family are, well, crazily rich. She has to deal with everything that implies, including her boyfriend’s hard mother.
Directed by Jon M. Chu and with an international cast that includes Asian-American actresses Constance Wu and Awkwafina, British-Malaysian debutant Henry Golding and Malaysian star Michelle Yeoh, the Warner Bros. film has generated joy among Asians- Americans excited to see actors who look like them playing leading roles in Hollywood for the first time since “The Joy Luck Club” (“The Club of the Good Star”) of 1993.
“Growing up without being the dominant culture in the United States, we have had to grow by learning and training ourselves to see ourselves in characters and images and people who look very different to us, mostly white people,” said actress and comedian Jenny Yang. But someone like Rachel’s character “is a bit like me … It’s nice to let go of her hair and say, ‘Wow, in fact I can see someone where I do not have to flex this muscle to close the gap between that person and me ‘”
The stars of the film themselves have been clear about the pioneers they feel the film is and encourage film buffs to support it. “I hope that Asian-American children see CRA and realize that they can be the heroes of their own stories,” Wu wrote on social media.
But just because something is representative in a context does not mean that it is representative for everyone. Thanapal and others who have criticized the world that the film represents have expressed themselves against the idea that it is something that they must support so that the studies see that this type of cast is economically viable.
“Everyone else is told that it has to matter to them even though we are not represented, we can not see ourselves,” said Thanapal, an anti-racism activist facing Indians, Malaysians and other minority communities in Singapore.
“You put a tape in Singapore and the only people in it are Chinese, and they consider that representation, that’s the problem, they do not understand the dynamics,” he said. “When people say it’s the world of Singapore,
Singaporean writer Kirsten Han is uncomfortable with the fact that a film about a very specific world – that of super-rich Singaporeans – is promoted as a victory for the general representation.
“Yes, it’s a victory for representation, in the United States,” he said. “The lack of ethnic minorities, which make up a significant part of the population, is the same kind of mastery of the Chinese majority that we would see in any other medium in Singapore.”
The film does include a scene in a night market where the sellers of several businesses explain how they have been perfecting a dish over generations.
Those involved with the film have said that it is just one piece of everything.
“For those who do not feel identified, I hope they will soon find a story that does represent them.” We are not all equal, but we all have a history, “Wu wrote.
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