By Jordan Geriane
25 years ago, “Joy Luck Club,” a film that revolved around a non-martial arts plot and included an all-Asian ensemble was produced. 25 years later, “Crazy Rich Asians,” another non-martial arts, all-Asian cast film walked out of the fog. This film brews a movement that embraces Asian culture and sets the representation bar higher than ever before.
As a Filipino-American woman, seeing the film “Crazy Rich Asians” hit the mainstream media makes all my Asian pride go crazy. Having the opportunity to watch Asian actors from all its ethnic countries grace the screen as not only the main characters, but as the supporting characters and even the extras, was a movie to behold in all its glory.
“Crazy Rich Asians” storms movie theaters as the barrier-breaking film of the summer. One word to explain why? Representation. Representation for any race, ethnicity, lifestyle or sexual orientation – in this case, for the Asian race and culture – is important for the public to be exposed to.
Asian cultures are beautiful, delectable, exotic and rich in history. It deserves the spotlight, as well as the acknowledgement and respect of society. Although some Asian families do not live as lavishly or comfortably as the fictitious Young family and friends, this was the first time in a long time, where every Asian person was able to look up at the theater screen and see a full Asian ensemble portray authentic Asian culture.
Despite this movie being similar to the average dramatic chick-flick, it was a complex, more meaningful kind of chick-flick. The scenes were bright, lavish and meticulously pieced together. For instance, the luxurious wedding reception took place in a grand venue along with dramatic choreography. The music was multilingual and euphonious, fit for every scene and every mood. There was complexity, emotion and genuinity. When the main character, Rachel Chu, feels the pain and rejection from being turned away by everyone in Nick’s family, it somehow hurts us too. Haven’t we all felt rejection at some point in our lives? From the sentiments, to the acting, to its representation, this was the first time in a long time, where I was able to watch a movie and be able relate to the miniscule (and the significant) details that the film entailed.
For instance, a mother who expected only the best for her child? Check. I was expected to live my life in a certain way while following certain guidelines set by my mother. I could never hang around friends she did not approve of. I was always told to get a job and then live your life, never the other way around. I was supposed to study something that would reliably sustain me and my future family for years to come. As I grew older, she stressed to me, constantly, that the tradition of “Family ALWAYS comes first,” and the traditions passed down by our ancestors must be kept alive. No matter what. Despite all that, I mirror the leading man, Nick Young, and decide to drop most of her guidelines. Like Young’s mother, it will take mine some convincing to come around, but in the end, all she wants is the best for her child.
The second relatable detail in this film revolves around the harsh comparison of Asian-American children to country native Asian children. Yup, check. When I was 13, I visited the Philippines for a month and reunited with all my cousins, aunts, uncles, and the neighbors who lived on the neighboring farms near our home. Although the reunion was nice, I felt disconnected. It was not until my cousins’ introduced me with to their friends when one of them said, quite rudely, “Oh… you’re American?” When I told my mother of this encounter, she told me similar words that Rachel Chu’s mother said to her: “Although you look Filipino, although you speak Tagalog, you’re different on the inside… to them you always will be.” She continued to explain that kids in America do grow up with more privilege and benefits. Kids in the Philippines grow up in a completely different environment. Basically, we come together, we clash.
There is one scene where the entire Young family is seen making homemade dumplings at their dinner table. Well, for me and my family, we cook egg rolls (lumpia) together. Teaching your family how to make lumpia is one of the many Filipino traditions that must be upheld for the families to come. I can check that off the list as well. In short, anytime the film portrayed anything remotely similar to my upbringing, my heart would jump in my chest yelling, “THAT IS ME.”
Before news of this film bubbled over into the mainstream media and public, the Asian American in me would have never imagined an Asian actor or actress stepping into a leading role and portraying it with such authenticity and poise. Seeing this film heightened my pride for my Asian roots. I am proud to be Filipino. I am proud to be Asian-American.