While researching for our article, The Identity Moment, we came across a few commentaries by fellow Asians on their impressions after seeing the movie. We’re glad we’re not alone in feeling this way.
Here are some voices that resonated.
In her article for Vox, Singaporean journalist Kirsten Han, expressed her views succinctly when she wrote:
“When it comes to representation, what I would like to see as a Singaporean is something that reflects my country and society in all our diversity and complexity, and helps audiences make connections between our experiences and theirs.
Crazy Rich Asians does nothing to improve the situation. It’s touted as a win for representation in the US because of its all-Asian cast, but the focus is specifically on characters and faces of East Asian descent, which plays into issues of racism and colorism that still exist, not only in the US but in Asia. Ironically, in Singapore, Chu’s all-Asian boast is nothing more than a perpetuation of the existing Chinese dominance in mainstream media and pop culture.”
Kirsten’s argument piece for the Foreign Policy magazine weighed heavily on the disingenuous intentions of the filmmakers about representation:
“The Crazy Rich Asians team has talked a lot about the politics of representation, telling the Hollywood Reporter that care was taken to avoid cultural clichés and blind spots. Yet it’s important to remember that, from the book through to the film, the presentation of the Southeast Asian city-state is about as reflective of Singapore as Gossip Girl is of America.
The film’s producers are well-versed in American racial politics and white dominance but don’t seem to have realized that, in the Singaporean context of power and privilege, Chinese Singaporeans—especially the superrich ones—are the “white people” here. Without this recognition, they came to Singapore and ended up replicating precisely the power dynamics they claimed to be fighting against in the United States.”
Quoted in a New York Times article, Sangeetha Thanapal, an Indian Singaporean writer and activist, took issue with the way the movie is being sold as “this big win for diversity, as this representative juggernaut, as this great Asian hope.”
“I think that’s really problematic because if you’re going to sell yourself as that, then you bloody better actually have actual representation of Singaporean minorities.”
Audrey Jiajia Li, a freelance columnist from Guangzhou, wrote this on her article for South China Morning Post:
“As we celebrate a blockbuster for its groundbreaking diversity, it would have been nice if the movie had helped its audience gain better appreciation of the diversities of its settings, from the Asian American communities in the US to the nation of Singapore.”
Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore, opined:
“It represents the worst of Singapore. Erases minorities. Erases the poor and marginalized. All you get are rich, privileged ethnic Chinese.”
Singaporean writer, Pooja Nansi, is more cutting in her opinions for Ink Stone News:
“The real shame is that Crazy Rich Asians, a movie unique for its Asian star power, depends on an unsettling devaluation of actual Singaporeans.
As a Singaporean and as someone who loves this city, Crazy Rich Asians is a painful revelation for me of how hungry we are for external validation. It is a chilling reminder of how willing we are to celebrate having a prominent narrative in Hollywood at the expense of gross misrepresentation. How easily we settle for the world to see a version of us that strips us of all our complexities, and becomes a playground, a set-piece for made-in-America Asian fantasies.
Why should Singapore’s defining narrative on a global entertainment stage be a version of ourselves defined by a Hollywood studio fantasy? Why should we trust the idea of a Singapore created by a writer who left the city at the age of 11, who would never have experienced any of the invisibility that comes with being a minority here – but whose very success rides on positioning himself as one?”
Writer Connie Wang succinctly summarized her concern in her article for Refinery29:
“The story was not really about Asian-Americans, despite its cast. I was worried that a story about one specific group of Chinese people who have nothing to do with America would be sold as an accomplishment that all Asian-Americans could hang their hats on.”
And last but not least, a consummate opinion for The Atlantic from Mark-Tseng-Putterman, a writer and a doctoral student in American Studies at Brown University:
“Though it has been trumpeted as a landmark victory in the fight for Asian American visibility in Hollywood, Crazy Rich Asians enacts a remarkable disavowal of certain forms of Asian representation.
While many speak of the legitimate importance of seeing people who look like themselves on-screen, the investment in mainstream depictions in particular, implies a preoccupation with not only (or even primarily) how Asian Americans see ourselves, but also how others see us.
It’s ironic but not particularly surprising that Crazy Rich Asians at times embraces a message of white-Asian equivalence by distancing itself from the “wrong” kind of Asians. If the film puts Asian America in the spotlight, it does so for a very slim portion of that demographic. While the cast includes a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean diaspora actors of various nationalities, besides Golding (who is of Iban descent) it effectively excludes South and Southeast Asians despite their deep presence in Singaporean society.”
Banner Image Credit: Adapted from Jason Roswell on Unsplash
See The Identity Moment article HERE
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