Hello, loves, happy Monday! I just finished up a short road trip with my parents, and had the opportunity to watch the film, Crazy Rich Asians, which I both loved and hated for reasons I’ll explain down below.
Since the first trailer came out in April 2018, I have been HYPED for this movie. I’m half Singaporean-Chinese, and not only is this film a romantic comedy (one of my favorite genres), but it showcases the country I consider my second home. I remember growing up and having my classmates tell me that Singapore isn’t a real place, because they couldn’t find it on a map, or telling me that my Singlish phrases sounded stupid. When I went into the movie theatre, I was excited to finally have proper Singaporean representation.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Hollywood first touted this film as the representation all Asians needed and deserved, citing the cast decisions, which is the first all-Asian cast in over 25 years. Then, after the movie started receiving criticism, they backtracked and instead said that this movie wasn’t meant to represent all Asians. That’s all well and good, but the premise of the story is about an Asian-American being plunged into the elite world of Singapore, and this film did a horrible job of representing Singaporeans.
The accents were American and British, with hardly two lines of Singlish throughout the entire 120 minutes. Despite the fact that over a quarter of the actual national population is Malay, Indian, Sri Lankan, etc, the only time the movie showed brown-skinned people was as servants. Nick Young’s grandmother speaks Mandarin Chinese, even though in traditional Singaporean families the matriarch will speak Cantonese and Hokkien. Eleanor Young’s emerald ring should have probably been jade, if it really was passed down through the generations.
As usual, Hollywood jumped the gun.
This movie is wonderful in that it is the first all-Asian Hollywood cast in decades. I’m so happy that, finally, Asian men are being portrayed as sexy and masculine, and that Asian women are being given Cinderella-style happy endings. The showcasing of traditional Singaporean food, like pandan cake and klepon, made my stomach growl and my mouth water in the theatre. The days of Asia being portrayed as simply Chinese kung-fu, Japanese tea ceremonies, and Indian slums are hopefully over in American television.
Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t accurately represent Singapore. To applaud this movie for at least not having a Caucasian actor play the protagonist (ahem, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone, I’m looking at you) is to accept a poorly-made hand-out. Hollywood can and should have done better. They should have done their research, they should have hired language coaches, and they shouldn’t have stretched their original promises to try and include ‘all Asians’. In the end, that is the exact same racist attitude that has been prevalent in our country for too long. The Asian identity is multi-faceted and too complex to ever be boiled down into one story – you cannot possibly make one film that explores all the heritages of Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Japanese, Malaysians, Indonesians, etc. etc.
Crazy Rich Asians didn’t do a good job of truly representing Singapore, but, hopefully, the small but significant backlash will inspire Hollywood to stop making blanket statements about diversity, and to actually create a multitude of Asian-led movies. I look forward to the day Hollywood starts telling stories that are as unique and intricate as the people sitting in the audience.