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  • Amelia Chuang

The Misconception of Crazy Rich Asians

Updated: Jul 20, 2021



American-born Chinese Rachel Chu has fallen for her boyfriend, Nick Young, unaware of both the power and extraordinary affluence that his family name holds. The fairytale-like story told in Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians has been regarded as “a movement for Asian and Asian-American representation in the movie industry” and has placed as the sixth highest-grossing romantic comedy since 2018.

With a spectacular production and one of the few all-Asian casts since The Joy Luck Club in 1993, the film emphasizes the beauty and excessive lavishness of Singapore’s elite. But a display of excessive lavishness is really all that the film seems to be and misses the bigger picture of presenting Asian Americans in a meaningful way to the diaspora.


Undoubtedly, Hollywood has done an unfulfilling, abhorrent job of casting Asians and Asian-Americans in films. A recent USC study showed that from 2007 to 2019, in 44 movies, only 3.4% of Asians were featured as a lead or supporting role. With the lack of Asian representation in the movie industry, many were ecstatic for Crazy Rich Asians to assume the role of a meaningful and realistic film that would more strongly capture and represent Asians, Asian Americans, and Asian culture as a whole.

There is no doubt that seeing Asian faces on Western screens is a major step forward; however, the film is overly-ostentatious and serves as a far-fetched portrayal of Singapore’s 0.03%, a microscopic population which in no way is able to represent the wider diasporic community. Although the film is lighthearted and comedic, Crazy Rich Asians’ selective representation creates harmful and unrealistic stereotypes that cause the other 99.97% of Asians to feel out of place.


The continent of Asia comprises 48 countries in addition to hundreds of cultural populations. Featuring an all-Asian cast, the movie was expected to represent the diversity and traditions that make Asian cultures so unique. However, the predominantly Chinese cast has excluded actors of Singapore’s other 25% minorities, such as Indians, Malays and smaller ethnic groups. Furthermore, a major issue arises regarding the way in which the film’s particular group of elite, high class Asians present themselves to others and the world. The glamorous materialistic way of life ignores and outcasts the 80% of Singaporean residents who are of the lower and middle classes.


As a Singaporean-American myself, I have had the privilege to experience the country’s culture, often traveling there to visit my relatives. ‘Singlish’ (an informal slang term denoting the mix of the English and Singaporean languages), is a dialect spoken by a vast majority of the population; however, in the movie, hardly any of the characters are heard speaking ‘Singlish'. Though I have not had the opportunity to truly immerse myself in my Singaporean culture, this blatant neglect of basic Singaporean dialect makes me question the validity of many other aspects of the movie.


My grandparents, born and raised in Singapore for the majority of their whole lives, believe that the film could not be further from actuality, explaining that

“Everything in the movie that is portrayed is unrealistic; the average Singaporean citizen is unable to enjoy all the perks that are shown, and most live in government subsidized apartments.”

Crazy Rich Asians displays a fictional and impractical version of what Singapore and its people truly are, even without considering the way that Crazy Rich Asians portrays Asians in general.


To put it simply, the film industry should not use the top 2,000 multimillionaires and billionaires of Singapore to represent the 4.6 billion Asians across the Western world to their entirety. Despite the narrow viewpoint shown in the film, Crazy Rich Asians' success will lead to a more prominent Asian representation in Hollywood, hopefully capturing the true essence of Asia’s melting pot of people, languages, food, and culture, and how we Asian Americans navigate between Eastern and Western culture.


 

Bibliography

Colgate University, 13 Sept. 2019, blogs.colgate.edu/bookstore/2019/09/book-to-movie-club-crazy-rich-asians.html.

“Crazy Rich Asians (2018) - Financial Information.” The Numbers, 15 Aug. 2018, www.the-numbers.com/movie/Crazy-Rich-Asians-(2018)#tab=summary.

Hays, Jeffrey. “MIDDLE CLASS AND POOR PEOPLE IN SINGAPORE.” Facts and Details, June 2015, factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Singapore/sub5_7b/entry-3736.html.

Hirschmann, R. “Singapore: Billionaires Numbers 2014-2019.” Statista, 19 Mar. 2021, www.statista.com/statistics/785302/singapore-number-of-billionaires/.

Romo, Vanessa. “Movies Bypass Asian And Pacific Islander Actors And Directors, Study Finds.” NPR, NPR, 19 May 2021, www.npr.org/2021/05/18/998075650/movies-bypass-asian-and-pacific-islander-actors-and-directors-study-finds.

The Straits Times. “Number of Millionaires in Singapore to Surge 62% by 2025 to 437,000: Report.” The Straits Times, 23 June 2021, www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/number-of-millionaires-in-singapore-to-surge-62-by-2025-to-437000-report.

“Crazy Rich Asians (2018).” Rotten Tomatoes, 2018, www.rottentomatoes.com/m/crazy_rich_asians.


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