A movie that features a completely Asian cast. As the leading roles. Being showcased in major theaters, rather than in exclusive film festivals or others of the sort, all throughout the nation. This is majorly unheard of in the film production industry. Yet the release of Crazy Rich Asians earlier this month has done just that.
By now, most everyone has heard of the movie that’s exploring the uncharted territories of an all-minority cast and, in turn, challenging the unspoken, but nonetheless unanimous, standards of a film. Released on August 15, 2018, Crazy Rich Asians has made a bold statement in the Hollywood industry.
Valencia High School senior, Haeun Hyeon, believes, “This movie is a step against prejudice against minorities in Hollywood films and I feel that the casting of this hit movie is able to provide hope for other minorities seeking to make it big in the film industry.”
However, as much praise as this film has been receiving, there has also been a considerable amount of backlash and criticism on it. For one, many critics strongly feel that this film did the exact opposite of what it has been praised for – it perpetuates the racism and stereotypes that are already very present in the industry.
Critics have decried that the film’s lack of Asian diversity only feeds the boxed-in, narrow view of minorities that most non-minorities hold. Most of the people in the film are East Asians. By featuring a main cast that supposedly represents the overarching culture of Asians, yet using such a restrictive ethnic group of actors and actresses to do so, Crazy Rich Asians is garnering disapproval from many.
More than that, though, actual Singaporeans feel insulted and incorrectly portrayed. Singapore, where most of the movie takes place, is depicted as a glamorous country, as the movie selectively exhibits parts of Singapore that are not really defining of it at all. It does not serve justice for the nation of Singapore, and fails to highlight on the areas that really make up the country. According to Citylab, the vast majority of Singapore’s population lives in public housing blocks and a cannot afford a car.
“Crazy Rich Asians reinforces the wealth cliché, and the portrayal of Singaporean urban space affirms this one-dimensional view of the city and its people,” says Mimi Kirk, writer for Citylab and 2-year past resident of Singapore.
Another critic, Sangeetha Thanapal, a Singaporean-Indian activist, expresses, “Part of the way that this movie is being sold to everyone is as this big win for diversity, as this representative juggernaut, as this great Asian hope.” She continues on, “I think that’s really problematic because if you’re going to sell yourself as that, then you […] better actually have actual representation.”
As seen, this movie has been met with praise, but also a lot of criticism. Nevertheless, Crazy Rich Asians has taken the industry and media by storm. And whether or not the content and message it drives forth are positively or negatively received, one thing is for sure: it has deviated from the norms of the film-making and made a bold statement in the industry.
Angela Kim, Grade 12
Valencia High School