Crazy in Love with Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy in Love with Crazy Rich Asians | Houston Moms Blog

Like almost every other Asian American I know, I have seen the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” at least once already. I read the novel by Kevin Kwan years ago {who has a Houston connection, by the way!} when working for a tech start-up in the e-book technology space. It was riveting then and it was just as enchanting when the book came to life on screen, more spectacular than I could have imagined.

I have come across a lot of positive reactions to the movie from Asian American writers and agree with everything I’ve read so far, which surprises me. It tells me that there is a shared experience in the Asian American community, a longing to see ourselves reflected back to us in a medium that is given such weight in our society, rightly so or not. We have been waiting a long time for this movie.

See me! {Please don’t see me.}

It’s not like we haven’t seen Asian faces on screen, but this is nothing like having Asian characters dropped into a role just for diversity’s sake. Most Asian Americans I know have lots of Asian American friends—we don’t just exist as lone Asian faces in a sea of white people. But you wouldn’t know it from what the media reflects back to us. The consolation prize may be better than nothing, but we all know when we’re being dismissed. When “Crazy Rich Asians” came out, it was like a middle child finally getting someone in the family to notice them.

I loved the music, the different dialects of Chinese interspersed throughout, and the jokes. I appreciated the symbolism of certain scenes and the bits and pieces of so many familiar aspects of my culture out there for all the world to enjoy with me. When something like this validates the things that are a part of your life, it can also feel like it is validating you too. Wow! You see me!

The funny thing is that the desire to be truly seen exists at odds with the desire not to be seen at all. I was out with a couple of friends and their kids this summer. The seven children between us were mostly dark-haired and dark-eyed, with the exception of two blond children. My friend commented on how her kids stuck out within our little crew. I didn’t understand what she was talking about at first. Then I realized she meant that her kids looked different than the rest of the children. It never occurred to me to notice something like that because my kids always stick out! And I always stick out! I have been self conscious since I knew how to be self conscious.

But in “Crazy Rich Asians”, no one stuck out. I didn’t have to be self-conscious the way I am when a random Asian character appears on screen. There is always the initial “Oh God, an Asian character is being introduced” moment when I watch anything. “Are they gonna make him the nerd?” Or “Is she going to be the Chinese restaurant owner with an accent?”

Instead, the characters were just…themselves. Even my parents felt compelled to watch “Crazy Rich Asians” with their friends. I don’t think they’ve stepped foot into a movie theater in decades. They said they had so much fun and that made me so happy. My mom especially loved hearing old songs she recognized. Many of these actors may be new to American audiences, but they’re familiar faces to the Chinese diaspora. For the first time ever, as an American watching an American movie, I felt a real connection.

A Moon Landing

I struggled with writing this piece and I don’t think I am doing my thoughts and feelings justice here. How do you condense all these different disparate ideas about Asian American identity into one blog post about a romantic comedy? I am still thinking about it. I feel like I have a piece of candy in my mouth and I’m just kind of rolling it around, figuring out the flavors. It’s a big piece of candy.

Some old memories came to mind as my candy continues to melt. One day while I was reading the newspaper in my family’s living room at age 9 or so, I came across the ad insert for a department store. Flipping through the pages, I suddenly spotted an Asian model. I couldn’t believe it! I took it to my mother right away to show her. It made such an impression on me that 30+ years later I can still remember my shock.

Fortunately, times have finally changed and I see Asian faces in ads all the time. My kids are lucky. My daughter received her first doll from her uncle when she turned one. It had black hair and dark eyes—an Asian looking doll. I was thrilled! I never had a doll like that growing up. Mine had red hair and smelled faintly of strawberries. My little girl has since acquired two more dolls that look like her, but she doesn’t seem to treasure them any differently than her other dolls. I realize that I really bought them for myself. I want my children to grow up never doubting that they belong. We are making some progress but it has been too long in coming.

Hopefully there will be more movies like Crazy Rich Asians and my children will not have to treat an outing to a movie theater like a moon landing. “Where were you when Crazy Rich Asians came out?” I’m sure that 30+ years from now, I’m still going to remember the sheer joy of watching this movie for the first time.

Need more diversity posts? Check out Houston Moms’ Diversity in Motherhood:: We All Love the Same series!

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  1. I agree, It was great to see Asians portrayed as normal characters, not stereotypes! I think anyone regardless of their race could enjoy this movie!

    • Yes it is definitely one of the “funnest” (?) movies I’ve ever seen! Over the top, hilarious, and just plain happy fun. (Side note: Caucasian audience increased from 32% first weekend to 48% second weekend, Hispanic viewers from 10% to 13%.)


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