What 'Crazy Rich Asians' Meant to Me
To Finally Get to See Your Culture on the Big Screen
Admittedly, I didn't think that watching Crazy Rich Asians would mean as much to me as it did. I grew up in a suburb of Seattle in a pretty well-off neighborhood where I rarely encountered racism. Many of my friends were Chinese-American or Asian-American and proud of it, which meant I grew up ignorant of how difficult it was to be Chinese in some parts of America. I always thought that racism was a problem only regularly encountered by other minorities.
As I grew up, I became more aware of the microaggressions that occurred against Asians; from rolling eyes when my mom spoke with an accent, to assumptions that I didn't have a US citizenship because I look Chinese, I learned that racism wasn't as cut and dry as I had thought. Even so, I considered myself lucky, because at least I didn't have to fear for my life when I walked on the streets; I was a "lucky minority."
Having this mindset of being the "lucky minority," I went along with how Asian-Americans were treated. After all, I wasn't being called slurs constantly, and I saw that as a fair trade off for having my culture pushed to the fringes of society. I was lucky to have friends who understood where I came from, but I've heard stories of Asian-American kids who have suffered at the hands of stereotypes about them born out of sheer ignorance. This movie made it clear that we are a complex and beautiful culture with more to offer than just "being good at math" or "screaming at each other in Chinese."
As the conversation about minority representation in media grew louder, I started thinking about how that had affected me. I was excited to see more Asian-Americans in media and entertainment, but I didn't feel as passionately as some people seemed to feel. Yes, my favorite Disney princess was Mulan, but that was because she was the most bad-ass. Maybe I was incredibly excited when Cho Chang showed up in Harry Potter but only because Harry had a crush on her. I had always justified these favorites with different reasons because I didn't want to admit how far we still had to go to stamp out discrimination. I was afraid to speak out for fear that people would tell me that Asians had it "good enough."
I went into the movie expecting to enjoy it because it had gotten good reviews since its premier, but I got much more than that. I saw my life portrayed on the screen. I saw everything from huge family parties to overbearing parents to the belief that family always comes first. While these aren't characteristics unique to Asian culture, seeing it portrayed by Asians gave it a personal feel to me. I could relate to these characters like I rarely do, and it felt amazing. Every single twist and turn hit me ten times harder because I could finally see myself on the screen. Crazy Rich Asians made me feel understood.
WARNING! Spoilers ahead...
I saw myself and my family in the scene where Nick's family wrapped dumplings. I heard my life's story told when Nick talked about how his grandmother had helped raise him. This movie tackled things that are so rarely discussed, such as that weird gray area for children of immigrants where you don't belong anywhere because you're not American enough but you're also not Chinese enough. I heard my parents' stories when Nick's mom emphasized all she had given up for her family. Things that were a normal part of my life were being portrayed on the big screen and everyone was watching! I related to the conflict in this film on a more deeply personal level than anything else I've ever watched.
Throughout the movie, I laughed and cried and clapped, not only because the actors were phenomenal, but because I was given something I never even knew I was missing. I've always been proud to be Chinese, but Crazy Rich Asians reminded me just how much my culture has to offer. What if we had been including minorities in media and entertainment since it began? What would the world be like? There's no going back, but I look forward to where we're going now.