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The Mistake I Made at ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Why Crazy Rich Asians Made Me Cry

In watching Crazy Rich Asians, I made one key mistake…

I went into the theater wearing a considerable amount of black eyeshadow. It’s what I usually do — I apply it under my eyes, along the lash line — but I had plans with friends after the movie. I wanted to keep my made-up face intact, which meant, or so I realized right about when the movie started, that I couldn’t cry.

And this was a problem, since, throughout the rest of what turned out to be a funny, warm, charming movie, a highly enjoyable romantic comedy, I fought tears. My eyes filled again and again; I sniffled; I pressed my hands together, trying to calm down. I’d known, of course, that this was the first big-studio movie about Asian Americans in 25 years, and I’d imagined it would be a meaningful evening, a joyful couple of hours. I hadn’t expected upheaval.

The thing is, there were so many Asian people on that screen. And they weren’t just caricatures, sidekicks or white people dressed in yellowface. They weren’t unnamed characters who get killed within five minutes. There were no martial arts. They were just people, Asian human beings who talked, kissed, joked, gossiped, ate, danced. Do you know how rare this is?

The talking, for instance: in movies and television shows as recent and popular as Pitch Perfect and Glee, the very few Asian American characters have been more or less mute. The kissing: I can’t think of the last time I saw two Asian characters kiss in an American movie. And so on. I cried because of how beautiful it was, seeing people who look as if they could be part of my family, and who speak English like me, on a large screen at my neighborhood theater, but I also cried because I’d gone so long without such a sight. My whole life, in fact — I was too young to watch the last major movie about Asian Americans, Joy Luck Club, in theaters in 1993. What I was realizing, as I sat in my seat, was how badly I’d wanted this. And that I’d tried, on some level, perhaps because of how remote such a possibility had seemed, to suppress the wanting.

So, there was joy, and sorrow; rage, as well. We shouldn’t have had to wait this long, and we’re not waiting again. Just today, as I was writing this, I learned that a Crazy Rich Asians sequel has been approved. The delightful Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was released Friday. Searching, a movie starring John Cho, is in theaters nationwide next week. An Ali Wong-Randall Park romantic comedy will be out next year, and adaptations of books by Celeste Ng, Min Jin Lee, Jade Chang, Patricia Park and Weike Wang are in the works. With all this coming and more, maybe the day will come when I’ll be able to watch a romantic comedy about Asian Americans without any tears at all.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

R.O. Kwon was born in Seoul, South Korea, but raised in Los Angeles, and is the author of the radiant The Incendiaries. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed and Time. You can buy her book here.

(Top photo of Henry Golding and Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians by Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Crazy Rich Asians is based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name, and follows an Asian-American woman who experiences one of the most surprising trips of her life when traveling to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. You can watch the trailer here.)

  1. Traci says...

    I haven’t seen the movie yet (I will) but, as an African-American woman who was THRILLED when Black Panther was in the movie theatres, I can completely connect with your feelings regarding the Asian presence in movies. And like you, I hope to see many more movies featuring people like us, doing things people like us usually do, which is….EVERYTHING.

  2. I watched the movie yesterday and was surprised as well to see that this lovely movie. The showing of affection on screen is a first to me since must Asian movies or soap operas do not show it. A well-made movie.

  3. thank you so much for opening my eyes. i take being a white woman for granted so often. thank you for reminding me to be aware. i loved the film!

  4. Donna says...

    Love this post so much! I watched Crazy Rich Asians with my bestie a few days ago.
    I watched it without having read the book. I laughed, I cried, I was thoroughly moved. I cried during certain parts and I couldn’t understand why I was crying (If that makes sense…) It was the first movie I’ve watched in months and I was very impressed!
    On my way home, I stopped at the bookstore to get a copy of China Rich Girlfiend. I am loving it! So well-written.

  5. Althea says...

    I am a long time reader and was surprised and delighted by this post. I live in NYC where there is large population of Asian Americans and watching it in the theater on opening night had such a sense of camaraderie amongst my peers; it was so heart warming! Despite having grown up in Hong Kong where representation wasn’t an issue, Crazy Rich Asians touched me more than expected. Moreover, I love all the thought pieces out there on both the power of representation and the critiques on how the film doesn’t capture the full diversity of Singapore. Here is to more films with three dimensional characters that give us the space to keep challenging ourselves.

  6. Nicole I. says...

    The movie was soooo good!!
    My eyes got misty ;-) at the end. I’m telling all my friends to
    support the movie!

  7. Cara M says...

    My Grandmother immigrated from Japan after the Korean War. She met my Grandfather when he was a GI stationed there. She died when my Father was a teenager and although we celebrated Japanese culture, growing up with blonde hair/blue eyes, I desperately wished for a connection to her in a more personal way. My sister, Hannah, is very clearly more Asian looking. In high school, someone wrote in bold permanent marker “JAP” across her locker. When she was little, people would stop my Mother and remark how happy they were she adopted a baby from “China” (crazy, considering my Dad who is clearly Asian attended church with us). Anyhow, although we both had different experiences growing up due to our looks, we were both glad to see more representation in popular culture for different reasons. I loved the book and was so happy to see the movie come out. I hope this is the start of much more representation in mainstream culture.

  8. Priscilla says...

    I left two kids at home with hubby. Went to watch this movie and cried like a girl. Thanks for this. Hope my daughter have more such movies to watch when she grow up.

  9. Lauren E. says...

    Don’t forget The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang! A fantastic romance novel whose rights were just acquired to turn it into a movie. The story is kind of Pretty Woman-esque and features two Asian American main characters, one of whom has Asperger’s. Highly recommend!

    • Barbara says...

      I loved The Kiss Quotient, but Stella – the character with Asperger’s – is not Asian

    • Emma says...

      OOoh, I cannot wait to see Micahel Phan (or all his amazing family) on screen! He’s half Vietnamese, not that I’ve read the book more than once;)

  10. K says...

    This white woman from middle America cried a few times too. I didn’t grow up seeing Asian faces in my tiny, rural community, but after living in large, diverse cities, I’ve randomly wound up with more Asian friends than white friends. We tend to have more in common than we have differences, and our differences can be interesting–not scary. It was so refreshing to see faces that look like my friends onscreen!

  11. Kirsty says...

    Everyone please PLEASE watch Kim’s Convenience. It’s incredibly diverse, immigrant-positive, explores issues surrounding children of immigrants and their identities straddling two cultures, AND it’s incredibly heartwarming and funny with one of the most generous casts in television.

  12. I just saw this movie and LOVED IT!! It’s definitely the best rom-com of the year!
    xoxo Shannon

  13. Christina says...

    My husband and I saw this last night and both of us got teary eyed at various moments. That first scene in the hotel? Who amongst us can’t identify with that experience of being judged by your appearance? And thinking to yourself – I’ll show you… it was a fantasy wish fulfillment. Seeing people who look like us up on the screen resonated with something deep inside us. Seeing bits of familiarity (culture, mannerisms, values, ways of life) up on the screen (even in a completely lavish setting that we have no connection to) was so meaningful. Representation MATTERS. It matters so much.

  14. Mary says...

    Haven’t seen the movie yet but even just the media coverage makes my heart swell. I’m half Korean and grew up in a more rural setting in Missouri, so . . . I was different. The amount of times I got “Do you know who you look like, you look just like Lucy Liu?” is absolutely cringeworthy. And then to make it worse was the overall lack of understanding of why that statement sorta sucked. So yeah, representation matters :)

  15. I posted this on my facebook:
    Watched a SECOND time with 家人the temptation to qualify my like for the movie like yes i know all the criticisms but just soak in the pride of Asian-Americans tearing up from the sheer impact of seeing our likeness on screen speaking English to each other being badass and heartfelt and funny in a sea of Asian extras the amalgamation of old and new the foods and scenes i saw in Singapore when my mama worked there for 3.5 years the great visuals a 75% non Asian audience tearing up relating to universal familial and romantic love stories the skilled nuanced and slapstick acting in an otherwise straightforward romcom plot (just goes to show you can make anything good as long as it feels true) to have Asians that were attractive and smart and funny and pained ie human to see two Asians speaking English in love to have a romcom not about falling in fresh love but realizing how much the bittersweetness of why did it take so long why was this unfathomable just five years ago why did you ever think my seaweed snacks were smelly and now you can buy them at Whole Foods Why did I ever even for a SECOND wish I wasn’t who I am
    ***
    As an Asian-American you’re often told you’re not good enough for either culture which was why ( to echo others) it was so powerful to see this not only acknowledged but also appreciate the strength of this duality. It was also really powerful to see Asian characters speaking English for the majority of the film, when I spent my whole life getting asked “Wow why is your English so good? (cuz I was born here)” and “Why is your Chinese so bad (because I wasn’t born in China, Auntie).” Of course, there are plenty of ABCs that speak Chinese very well, but the point is to not be expected to be anything other than yourself. You’re not a failure of an Asian if you say, suck at math.

  16. Leilani says...

    Oh my heart, relatable. I’ve been saving up watching Moana until I could cry through it alone aha. (Watching Lilo and Stitch years ago caught me by surprise in a similar way and I knew I was going to cry. (that’s my nose! Nani, that’s me!!)) Tonight I finally took off my mascara and curled up and watched Moana and cried a lot, it was so lovely; I just knew those legends and faces.

    Crazy Rich Asians was absolutely fantastic as well, and Weike Wang and Min Jin Lee’s books are excellent. Excited for the future.

  17. Jessica Brown says...

    So consumed by the needs of black people that it never even occurred to me that Asians might need more space too!

    • Nikki says...

      Yes, Jessica, it would be nice to take a good look around and realize that there is more than just black & white… it would be very nice for everyone to get some recognition and respect, we all deserve it, the difference in culture is a beautiful thing and I look forward to continuing to learn more about everyone especially on the big screen.

  18. barb says...

    This is so wonderful and made me tear up for you.

  19. Christina Tseng says...

    Felt the same way! Thanks for writing this.

  20. Linda says...

    Thank you for this post :)

  21. Jody says...

    This is so beautiful. I can’t wait to see the film. xo

  22. Brandee Tsay says...

    My husband and I watched it together and when the credits started to roll I looked over and saw in the blue light of the screen that tears were rolling down his cheeks. I laid my head on his shoulder and we both cried silently through the credits. He’s Taiwanese-American and was born in the South. I’m white and from the Midwest. We’re expecting our first child and thinking about how to raise our third generation American child to know his or her cultural roots. There were so many things in the movie that hit home for us (and made me thankful for my accepting mother in law)! He talked all the way home about it as he’s trying to figure out how to show his parents that he values their sacrifices made to raise him in the U.S. and how he also feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. In Taiwan they immediately know he’s American and here he’s seen as Asian (even though he has a Southern accent after a beer or two.) I’m thankful for the opportunity to know Taiwanese culture and to raise my kids to know it well. I’m also thankful for the eye opening reality that my husband has had to navigate so much as an Asian American. He’s my best friend on earth, and it means so much to me that this movie meant so much to him.

    • This made me cry…in a good way!

      I can tell you are going to be a great parent for a bi-racial child and hopefully, the bi-racial part won’t matter as much as it has in previous generations, at least not in a bad way. I’m also trying to figure out how to raise my half-Asian children how to be proud of all of the places they come from. Also, I have one that came out white (which I write about here http://beatconbini.com/2018/01/08/biracial-shes-white-baby/) and that’s another aspect of the topic that we are navigating!

      Best of luck to you!!!

  23. Carrie says...

    Can’t wait to see it, and glad to have read this perspective beforehand!

  24. My feelings exactly, except surprisingly I didn’t cry (and I cry at EVERY movie). I mostly just felt pure joy the entire time. To hear the Chinese song played at my wedding IN AN AMERICAN MOVIE, blew my mind. To see that there were only 2 non-Asian actors in the entire movie was a triumph. To see them playing mah-jong and making dumplings, just like I had learned as a child was almost too much! This movie has opened a door that has been closed for WAY too long and I am ecstatic to see that there are more on the horizon.

  25. Kalin says...

    As a 35 year-old Chinese American woman this is the first film I’ve seen with an all Asian cast. While there are movies made in Asia with all Asian casts I could never identify with them, there’s just too much of a cultural gap.

    What I hadn’t expected going into this movie was how beautiful I would feel afterwards. Watching a movie where everyone looked and sounded like me for 2 hours made me rethink standards of beauty and OMG Asian men and women are so beautiful! It left me wondering, wait is this what white women have felt their entire lives? Every time they left a movie where everyone on screen looked like them it reinforced that they are the standard of beauty and felt more beautiful as a result.

    • Amy says...

      As a white woman, I can personally say I have NEVER felt that way after seeing a movie. I think I tend be more in awe of beauty in a different culture than mine to be honest. But just speaking for myself here.
      I can’t wait to see this movie! Looks so good!

    • mica says...

      It definitly doesn’t feel that way for me, quite the opposite. I always complain how every policewoman in every show looks like a supermodel. Nobody looks real. But British shows seem to be different.

  26. Nigerian Girl says...

    Yes to representation and more diverse stories. I just saw “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and I loved it, no pun intended. Looking forward to seeing “Crazy Rich Asians” when it opens in cinemas here.

  27. Molly says...

    Thank you for this post! I loved the movie – felt all the feels just as everyone expressed. Excited to check out “the incendiaries,” “searching,” and “to all the boys I’ve loved before.”

  28. LAURA says...

    Loved Crazy Rich Asians! Best new rom com I’ve seen in a loooong time. More inclusivity. More rom-coms.

  29. C says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I haven’t watched the movie yet and am planning to go see it in the cinema (which I rarely do nowadays) but still cried while reading R.O. Kwon’s piece as it captured my feelings so well about what it felt like growing up and never seeing realistic and developed characters played by Asians. So happy to read what an impact the success of this movie is making in the industry.

  30. Lucia Tran says...

    This hits the nail on the head. How beautiful it was to see your own face reflected on a giant screen… in a theatre that was filled with beautiful diversity. Representation matters. Thank you for featuring this piece!

  31. Ali says...

    “The thing is, there were so many Asian people on that screen. And they weren’t just caricatures, sidekicks or white people dressed in yellowface. They weren’t unnamed characters who get killed within five minutes. There were no martial arts. They were just people, Asian human beings who talked, kissed, joked, gossiped, ate, danced. Do you know how rare this is?”

    This. This was it. This is what made this movie so powerful. Asian Americans could be cast in a rom-com and it could be witty and romantic and relatable. Thank you COJ for featuring this insightful post and movie.

  32. Stacy says...

    Same! I even cried reading this just now.
    As a fan of the books (for totally light beach reading), I was wary of *this* being the first all-Asian film made in the U.S. since The Joy Luck Club, which has so much nuance and depth. I was wary of the message that all Asians are rich (ugh, so damaging, and we’re *still* fighting the model minority myth…Harvard admissions, etc.), and the focus on Chinese-descended inhabitants of Singapore, a country with complicated dynamics around race and colorism.
    AND YET… I teared up at Rachel and Nick eating dessert at the bar, and again the Araminta and Colin take them to the night market, and again at the party at Tyrsall Park, and again at Araminta’s bachelorette because there was such diversity among the characters—even though they were all “Asian” in some way.
    And the mah jong scene! Gah! I loved the hidden meanings that only Chinese viewers, and people familiar with Chinese culture, understood. (I’m not Chinese but have been close with Chinese families and loved having some inside knowledge while relishing that some of it was not meant for me to get immediately.)
    Here’s to opening doors and broadening the definition of Hollywood success.

  33. Jessica says...

    I was excited to see the movie and went opening weekend but was a little disappointed because for all that it’s an important movie culturally speaking, it is really just an ok romantic comedy. There were funny and romantic parts, but can we all agree he’s kind of a douche for not telling her ahead of time what she was walking into and for being a little oblivious to how hard it would be for her to be thrown into that situation?

    I don’t want to diminish the importance of this movie; I just wish it had been better. Can’t we have a fantastic movie and a fantastically diverse cast? I know it’s possible because- Black Panther.

    • Betsy says...

      If you have read the books, it delves into the “why’s” of him not telling Rachel about his money. Unfortunately, a 2 hour movie can only delve so much. I suggest reading the books. Read them twice, and laugh the whole way through each time.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes, we can! Hopefully one day! I keep thinking, this was a great stepping stone. :) There were many movies before Black Panther…

  34. Kim V. says...

    Great essay R.O! I am also so excited about all the Asian American centered stories that are hitting the mainstream. Yes!!!!! Finally!!!!

  35. Olivia Chen says...

    Such a great post. Love love the movie and books! Activism through cinema!

  36. Jenny says...

    Thank you for this post!! I knew I loved this blog but when I continually see you making an effort to discuss meaningful topics with a diverse group of writers I feel so much more understood and cared about as a reader. Please keep it up xxx

  37. leading up to the release of this movie, i sought out articles and news about it and more often than not, i would find myself fighting back tears. i saw it last week with my husband, and i’m seeing it again tonight with coworkers. i’ll probably see it again next week with another set of friends.

    growing up i distinctly recall that Cindi Lauper video Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. i don’t particular care for that song but there is an asian girl part of the group, she has funky rainbow brite hair, madonna make up and SHE WAS ON TV, i would eagerly wait for her slice of time on the screen. now i don’t have to wait for slivers, and it’s.about.damn.time.

  38. Sydni Jackson says...

    <3 <3 <3

  39. What a moving post – I cannot wait to watch this film! – hopefully it’ll be out in Ireland soon!!

    Rebecca

  40. SK says...

    As an Asian American (specifically Korean) I was excited to see this movie, but it caught me off guard how anxious I was as it played. Some thoughts: “we don’t have many chances in the American movie industry to prove that people will watch a movie starring Asians. Will this be good? Will it make Asians look “bad??” (like a lot of past movies have done so – the silent weird girl, the nerdy geek with the foreign accent, etc.) Will only Asian Americans and people coming with them watch it?” (Surprisingly not – the audience I saw it with on opening night in LA was a very diverse crowd). I let out a sigh of relief at the end that it didn’t… that in this American movie the Asians were as diverse in character as can be, like it is in real life. But I wondered, why do I have to think like this? The American movie industry’s lack of Asian American representation, coupled with racist comments aimed at me growing up, has unconsciously made me wonder whether my story is worth telling and whether the majority of America does accept me as American or see me as a foreigner, even though this is the only country I’ve lived in. I visit South Korea and people see me as American, here in America I get constant comments asking me where I’m from (Me: New York… other person: No really, where are you from?? Me: Yes, really, New York), feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere. The time I went to the playground with my 3 year old son and other kids started calling out to him in Cantonese and wondered why he didnt understand, and me telling them he doesn’t understand because he speaks English because he’s American; another toddler pointing to him and saying “Mommy, he’s Chinese”… being sad that he would have to face the same racist assumptions that he is a foreigner in the country he was born in. While dining in LA at an expensive restaurant for a special occasion, the waitress telling my dad that she doesn’t understand him (moreso because it was really loud in the restaurant) because it’s like he’s speaking a foreign language due to his accent (and no he really doesn’t have one – he’s fluent in English), and her apology being that a lot of foreign tourists come there so that’s why she made that mistake, thinking that somehow that would make us less angry. I mean, really in LA where there is a high percentage of Asian Americans is the assumption still that he is a foreigner, and not one of the many people of Asian backgrounds that grew up here? Things like these make me sad and angry, but this movie and the good reception of it gives me hope…that maybe the tides are changing. Hoping for better representation for all underrepresented groups!

    • Linda says...

      i totally feel you on all of this however something didn’t sit just right when i read the part about “me telling them he doesn’t understand because he speaks English because he’s American”.
      i think you prob just explained it wrong but when you say he speaks English because he’s American, it sort of equates American = English, along with the inverse Foreign Language = Non American.
      I’m sure you didn’t mean it like that but the way it came out didn’t quite sit with me. But I do agree with you that throughout the movie, i was anxious to see how the characters would play out and how it would reflect us.
      As a Chinese American, I get the- “where are you really from “questions a lot. I don’t necessarily get offended, though it depends on how the question is being asked and by whom. sometimes (again it depends on the how the question is being asked) i think people are just curious about what ethnicity I am and it comes out wrong.
      i usually just say- i’m Chinese but i’m from Boston. And that usually clears things up. I say this because sometimes i will meet a person with an interesting accent or look I can’t quite pinpoint. And it makes me curious. So i get why people sometimes wonder :)

  41. Maureen says...

    Confused by this post a little. Is this a new column featuring authors with new books?

  42. Amy says...

    COJ thank you for this post! I went in to theatre with little expectation and walked out LOVING the movie! As a first gen, I could relate to Rachel and her mother so much. My favourite scene being the mah Jong scene (literally when the water works started). Now thinking of it, I’ll probably have to go back with my mom!

    • Stacy says...

      It wasn’t in the book so I was delightfully surprised. Have you read about Jon M. Chu’s push for “Yellow” and about the singer? So interesting!

  43. Karl Striepe says...

    Why is “Joy Luck Club” so often name checked in these #repsweats articles but “Better Luck Tomorrow,” which rather liked, never mention? Even the “Harold & Kumar” movies, with two Asian leads, are passed over.

    • Sarah says...

      I think the difference is that Harold and Kumar wasn’t a primarily Asian cast (wasn’t Neil Patrick Harris also in it?) and Better Luck Tomorrow wasn’t by a Hollywood movie studio and shown nationwide (wasn’t it more of a limited release? I can’t remember). I enjoyed both of those too. Here’s a snippet from a NYTimes article: “Crazy Rich Asians,” starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding in a love story complicated by dazzling wealth (his) and a treacherous mother (his), is the first Hollywood studio movie in 25 years to have an all-Asian cast. The last one was “The Joy Luck Club,” which Disney released in 1993.”
      (www.nytimes.com/2018/08/19/movies/crazy-rich-asians-box-office-no-1.amp.html)

  44. -mika says...

    Thank you so much for this post! I went to see Crazy Rich Asians with 10 of my Asian American friends, and I was overcome with emotion while watching it. Representation matters, and I cried for the 12 year version of myself who never got to see anyone who looked like me on a big screen, and then I cried for my 15 year old niece who WILL. :)-

  45. Tristen says...

    R. O. Kwon is posting on CoJ?!!! BE STILL MY HEART. I just picked up her book and it was so good I read it in a day. Please– more author posts!

  46. Lindsay says...

    Representation matters, deeply. Thank you! We have to keep having these conversations and keep being critical about whose stories we show in media, arts, and literature and whose we don’t. I work in a school district that is a majority Latina/o and Native American, but the teachers and administrators are overwhelmingly white… and I think a lot about the dissonance in that for our students and families. We have to ask hard questions about why this is, and what barriers exist. We need to show and make space to represent ALL the people well.

  47. YESSS, this post was spot-on! Like you, I wore some black eyeliner to the movie not fully expecting to cry because it’s not something I usually do at movies, but Crazy Rich Asians had me sobbing!

  48. Shelby Levesque says...

    I went to see Crazy Rich Asians on opening night after having devoured the book a few months ago. I’m white, and while watching the movie I noticed every time a white character was on the screen (I think there was max 3, and they were all background extras). Then it hit me: this must be how people of color feel when they watch literally any. other. movie. It was an aha moment I’ll never forget, and to experience it in such a vibrant, delicious film was deeply moving.

    • Jeanne says...

      Out of all the comments, yours touched me the most. It’s so hard to explain “why” this film is so important to a white person who is used to seeing themselves in media everyday since they were born. Thanks for putting your thoughts in words so well.

  49. Nic says...

    Actually coming from Singapore, the movie doesn’t feel like a big deal or even representative of our culture. Firtly, what is this obsession that Hollywood has with lanterns? Why are there always lanterns when they shoot a scene in Singapore? Um, we only hang lanterns during the once a year lantern festival and Chinese New Year. Definitely not at weddings.

    Also, Asians in Asia do not classify ourselves as A Big Bunch of Asians. We are Singaporean / Chinese / Taiwanese / Japanese / Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Korean etc. So if I see a British-Malaysian on screen, that’s who he is, not me.

    America, you’ve still some way to go in understanding how the rest of the world works. :)

    • Anonymous says...

      I’m going to see the movie tomorrow, although as a Vietnamese American, it doesn’t mean a HUGE deal to me either. More asians on screen, and primary roles = hell yea! This is actually huge news for a country like the U.S. However, the Asian American population is richly diverse, and this one story doesn’t reflect all of us. It’s okay, I’ll still enjoy it! It should also be able to fail, too ;-)

    • A says...

      Actually, coming from Singapore, I loved the film .

      I’m excited to see more Asian representation and leads in Hollywood films (especially ones that aren’t martial art films) and I hang lanterns outside of those holidays , INCLUDING at my wedding. Looks like you have some ways to go in understanding difference and I would encourage you to work on that, rather than condescend and take away the significance of this movie.

    • Alexia says...

      I think you are missing the point.
      This is the first Hollywood (ie American movie) of it’s kind in a long while. Asians were really moved by the movie. Diversity sells at the box office. That is a big deal.

    • Sarah says...

      I wonder though, was the intention was for it to be representative of Singaporean culture? It is after all based on a fictional book called by the same name (thus why it’s called that – not to necessarily group all Asians together) about the extreme upper class – but again, fictional characters (I don’t know about the lanterns though! Good question).

      Watching the movie, at first I thought, I’ve seen a bunch of better rom coms from South Korea like this with similar storylines, but then it hit me that the difference is that the lines in this movie are primarily spoken in English and this movie is coming out of America and being shown to Americans in movie theaters, which (sadly) is a big deal, and that Rachel, the main character, is an Asian American working out her identity as someone of a Chinese background who grew up in America relating to an Asian living in Asia primarily (her boyfriend’s mother), which is something I can relate to and don’t see often times in movies.

      I’m Korean American and I agree about your point that Asians in Asia don’t group Asians as one big group, as I don’t either in America (and hopefully the movie title won’t send the message to do so!). BUT there are times I call other Asian Americans from different countries “Asians”… maybe it’s because of the commonness I do find with other people from other Asian cultures here in America where I am often a minority, including a lack of representation in the media (and the excitement I feel when an Asian American is shown – whatever country their relatives may be from) …I’m not sure. Good thoughts though to get me thinking. :) I agree, America has some ways to go, but glad for this stepping stone.
      This is an article that is somewhat related that helped me think this through a bit more: https://mashable.com/2018/08/17/crazy-rich-asians-asian-american-representation/#4xWhsioNsOqF

    • Ani says...

      Asian-Americans are a minority in the United States (whereas Asians are the majority in Asian countries) and, thus, do not often see people who look like us and live like us represented in American-produced television series and films.

      So perhaps try to see the importance of this film from the perspective of an Asian-American?

    • Julia says...

      Hi Nic,
      I totally get your point. I have a Brazilian friend and she is always disgusted with how most movies represent Brazilians, Brazilian culture or even South American’s. Some movies even put Brazilians speaking Spanish (they don’t), or Brazilian character’s speaking in a Portuguese (from Portugal) accent (total different accent) and great stereotypes (samba, great erotic bodies, sun, beach, people always being funny or passionate – or being super poor and bandits) or subtle ones (as the lanterns you mention).
      Having said so – here is the thing: it’s a full cast from Asian origin, they are there to tell a story that is not centered in Caucasian Americans, they have interesting characters, interesting lines, women seem to be strong in it (which is a big deal in itself) , it is a romantic story (which can please universal audiences) and that is new (or the wait was of 25 years). Even for Caucasians, Americans and Europeans it’s a big deal that they will see actors playing human roles and not only caricatures. We can argue that there is some caricature of what is a rich Asian ( I don’ t know), or what marrying to a Rich family seems to always be (I don’t know either). But at least the caricature is not from Kung-fu (samba), being a math genius (a sex gods and goddesses) and the roles is not of supporting a Caucasian American actor. That’s a big deal.
      I am sure that Singapore has great national movies with whole Asian casts that are smart, beautiful and probably with more meaningful stories. But the great world public doe not see it and does not get all the references. So this movie is big even if it’s a baby step compared to what the richness and cultures of all the different Asian countries can produce as movies.
      It would be great to educate the Caucasian world about the rich differences of each culture and maybe we will get there, but one step at the time.
      I remember some Greeks in Greece not feeling represented at all by “My fat greek wedding” saying that the American-greeks had nothing to do with the greeks. They are certainly right since there is a difference of treatment between them (those who stayed and those who left), but to the General public it was the first peak in some things of their Greek-American lives and it was important. Even if there were some caricatures!

    • Anjie says...

      I live in KL ,Malaysia and feel the same way. Btw many scenes were shot here as well for instance Be-Landa house in kl is where Eleanor young meets her bible group & Carcosa Seri Negara a former luxury hotel stands in for Tyersall Park -Nick’s grandmum’s opulent mansion .

    • Margarita Gaitan says...

      This is such an excellent comment! Thanks a lot! I live in Europe, where this discussion does not really happen, but it still is very mind-opening to follow. This really resonated with me! So: thank you.

    • Alice says...

      Don’t you think the film is still powerful even if it’s not relevant to audiences in Asia? Because it gives desperately needed representation and relatable characters to Asian American audience members from the machine that is the American film industry which, considering it’s audiences and power, should show way more diversity than it does.

    • Elizabeth says...

      I grew up in Asia, too – In the Philippines. I live in America now, but have spent part of my adult life in South Korea. One of my best “party tricks” is being able to walk up to someone who’s Asian and know which country they are from. I’m nearly always correct.

      But on the other hand, I love that America is a place where you can just be “Asian” here and not fight in the hierarchy of Asian cultures that feels so prominent when I go back. Racism isn’t exclusive to America. It also exists within American minority cultures, too…but of course it feels a lot less intense here than when I was living abroad, especially among people who are second, third, fourth (and so on…) generation Asian-Americans.

    • L says...

      It is great that as Asian Americans, you all get this deeply moving experience. Having grown up in the Chinese majority in Singapore, I can’t fathom that experience and have no desire to take it away from you either. But the reason Singaporeans take issue with this movie being called ‘a win for diversity’ is because it wipes out the presence of minority races (Indians, Malays) in Singapore – the only darker skinned Singaporeans in this film are…the servants. So is it really a win for diversity if it is built on erasing other minorities? I understand this is a hugely groundbreaking moment for all of you in America, but I hope you all can try to see this from a Singaporean’s perspective as well :)

    • Jean says...

      I agree with you. I work at an API nonprofit and many of us have discussed how Singapore is actually a multi-cultural and multi-racial society, but none of this is represented in the film. The Asian described are Chinese and Malaysian, and these two cultures represent the majority in Singapore. The film ignores other cultures and races, and this perpetuates their marginalization. And this is absolutely an American problem because Asian representation in American film should not be established by stepping on the backs of less represented cultures. This film may have been great for many upperclass east Asian Americans in American, but it wasn’t great for a lot of Asian Americans. It’s great that it exists, but discussion on the complexities of this problem should not be stifled, Thank you, Nic, for providing nuance alongside the praise.

    • Tracy says...

      As someone who’s first generation immigrant here, and was exposed to many extraordinary talents in Asia, this may not feel like a ‘big deal’ for me, BUT, as my kids are born in the US and are growing up here, I want this for my children as they grow up that it is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ to see people who look like them on screen (tv or movie) but not squeezed in to a small spectrum of stereotype.

  50. Moo says...

    I loved the movie and totally cried but also laughed! It’s wonderful to read this article. It’s a huge deal! But I didn’t realize either until I saw the movie? How is it possible that it took 25 years?? I cannot wait for the sequel!!

  51. Akiko says...

    YES! To Crazy Rich Asians, to To All The Boys, to Cup of Jo & R.O. Kwon for covering this amazing moment in film history… Our time is coming!

    I grew up not seeing myself on TV or in movies, because Hollywood had decided that Asian-Americans weren’t bankable, weren’t interesting… And for a long time, I internalized that and believed my story wasn’t as valuable as the classic leading lady’s. It’s not true; everyone deserves to be seen and heard.

    Now that we’re finally getting representation, I can’t wait to see what other stories and artists emerge! Be still, my heart!!!

  52. Julie says...

    here’s to more inclusive media. looking forward to seeing this one! Lovely essay.

    • Agree on both counts.
      Inclusive media just FEELS better. Our nation and our world are so much more diverse, and bigger and more complex than TV, mainstream movies etc. ever portray. I am all for it.

  53. PM says...

    I read the book when it first came out about five years ago. Over-the-top and hilarious. Kinda like “Dynasty” on steroids. I didn’t think the movie was as hilarious as the book but it was still fun.

    Yes, I’m Asian American and it was good to see an all Asian cast, but I didn’t feel weepy while watching the movie.

    My bad?

  54. Heidi says...

    Thanks so much for posting this! This movie has meant so much to the Asian American community, and it’s so heartwarming and inspiring to see people of all backgrounds come together to support it. I think there was an article floating around somewhere about the importance of Claudia Kishi of the Baby-sitters Club; she was one of the first fictional Asian American characters I was introduced to growing up. Reading about her — a pretty, artistic, popular Asian American female who wasn’t the stereotypical “nerd” was so refreshing. How wonderful it is to see more Asian American representation in the media! :)

  55. I so glad for y’all. My heart is filled. I saw it and cried also.

  56. Wendy says...

    I had low expectations going into the movie. I thought there’d be the bad accents, the king-fu jokes, the nerd references. It’s a Hollywood movie, after all. Still, I want my money to count and knew how important this movie was for Asian Americans so I went by myself last Fri afternoon to the movies, something I haven’t done in a long time since I have two little ones at home. What a fun, beautiful treat it turned out to be. The movie wasn’t just a great rom-com — it also made my heart swell with emotion seeing Asian Americans portrayed as funny, smart leads. Hearing the Singaporean accents and the clickety clack of mah jong, seeing the family bond over dumplings and talking about soups as tonics — it made me cry. Thank you, COJ, for this post and acknowledging this movie that means a heck of a lot to so many of us.

  57. Sherri says...

    My husband cried too! I enjoyed the movie as much as I enjoyed the book.

  58. Sorrel says...

    I am a white woman who took my white 9yo son to see it over the weekend and we both really enjoyed it. We happened to sit next to an elderly Chinese man and it was fun to witness his reactions to certain parts.

    What struck me most about the film was how strong each of the women were, even if I didn’t agree with their actions or point of view. Even more impressive was that although it’s a story about “crazy rich Asians” and there is a central love story, the women are really the stars here. The men are just supporting players.

  59. Dienesa says...

    I echo this post and all the comments. As an Asian American living in the South, I walked out of the theater feeling normal in a way I have not felt before. Also, I felt free to be proud of my heritage. Who knew mainstream media had that power? It does, and it is something to take part in with care and awareness.

  60. Annie says...

    I became officially plus sized during this, my third, pregnancy. It honestly hasn’t bothered me that much because my body changed so much during and after my first two pregnancies, I did a lot of my self acceptance and love then. But I found myself absolutely RAVENOUS to see women who looked like me. Tv, movies, books, anywhere. I found them, but they were charicatures, punch lines, gross stereotypes. I finally found the vibrant, gorgeous, unapologetically fat and fabulous women I craved on Instagram. It was such a relief! And that’s when I realized how privileged I am as a white woman to have grown up seeing people who look like me in every media format. And now every time I think about it it breaks my heart for all those other little girls through the generations of varying ethnicities who didn’t get to see women who look like them! It’s such a basic human NEED to feel seen and accepted and I’m so so happy we’re finally moving in the right direction to make that happen for a wide variety of people.

  61. jen says...

    I read all of the books and loved them, although the last was a bit of a potboiler. Look forward to seeing the movie. The writer’s reaction is similiar to how I feel watching Thelma and Louise or any woman enetered movie. What a relief.

  62. Veronica says...

    I am really looking forward to this movie as I just finished the book. It was refreshing and relieving to have depictions of Asians as more than one-dimensional caricatures.
    I think it is relatable to all minorities to want to feel accepted and this is a big step in that direction.
    Growing up there were really so few Asian women to look up to. I think I can count them on one hand… It was like there were only so few options for Asian women to be… either you’re a dragon lady or meek and subservient. I loved this story and I have high hopes for this movie. I want to see people with my kind of complexion with real depth, real stories. Perhaps then the rest of America can view us this way and we can start to claim that normalcy for ourselves.

  63. Genevieve says...

    It’s so exciting to see this burst of Asian-American movies and TV shows. In addition to the list above, another good one is Kim’s Convenience Store on Netflix. Super funny and often right on point! I feel like the main character, Janet, is someone who I would normally either be friends with or meet in real life. And I second the recommendation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before….Lana Condor is amazing! Lastly it’s so inspiring to see AA writers come to the forefront, as Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys are based on novels written by AA authors…yay!

    • Amy says...

      Yes! I love Mr. Kim and O-ma!

  64. Cait says...

    I am that white, blue eyed, blind woman who can’t wait to pay to see this movie in the theater to support the idea that EVERYONE should get to see representation of themselves on screens :) plus it just looks like a good, fun movie!

    • Sherri says...

      It’s well worth paying to see on the big screen. Read the book too! This movie is every bit as entertaining as the book.

    • Cait says...

      Gotta love when your phone auto-corrects “blonde” to “blind.” Ugh. Thanks, iPhone.

    • Christina says...

      Omg I read your original comment and was thinking, wow, this woman really feels strongly about making statement, paying to go to a movie that she can’t even watch.

  65. Oneida says...

    Yes!!!! This! I’m Asian-American and was so excited when our staff directors (neither of whom are Asian) said for our bonding/hangout time we were all going to see this movie. What surprised me the most was the surreal experience of actually being immersed in my own people and feeling normal – not “super-Asian” or stereotypical – and crying because I connected with the heart of real characters who just happened to look like me. It was so surreal. And the whole staff loved it and even my husband (white American) said he teared up too because of the story! I hope many people see it and show up with their financial support for this movie…so many of my friends have said independently that they’ve wanted to watch it. I hardly ever watch movies in theaters and I am going to see this again!!!

  66. slf says...

    I remember my parents taking us to see The World of Suzy Wong, starring France Nuyen, and Flower Drum Song, with Nancy Kwan, because they were the only movies at the time with Asian actors in a leading role. When The Joy Luck Club came out, I bawled my eyes out throughout most of the movie – finally, Asians portrayed in a realistic manner. I can’t wait to see Crazy Rich Asians with my two daughters – I loved all three of Kevin Kwan’s novels.

  67. Sarah B says...

    Yes! For so long Asian Americans haven’t been the directors or leading stars in the stories that we have to tell! I share all the emotions of the author, ranging from pride to rage on how I had to wait until I was 30 for a film like this. But I’m thankful to storytellers, creators, and actors who have given voice to under representation in media… I hope this just furthers the movement so more ethnicities and other marginalized groups can be seen too.

  68. Karen says...

    CoJ, thank you, THANK YOU for covering Crazy Rich Asians, such a significant milestone in Hollywood for us Asian-Americans!
    I hope we can build on the momentum so that seeing an Asian on the screen without a speaking role to just be the “token Asian” in the movie to check off the diversity box is a thing of the past.

  69. Elizabeth says...

    R.O. Kwon!!! I am listening to The Incendiaries on audiobook right now and I absolutely love it—each afternoon for the past week, it’s been my treat on my afternoon walk. Cup of Jo, thank you for this thoughtful post from one of my favorite authors. I’d so love to see more posts from her!

  70. Amy says...

    my roommate and I bought tickets to crazy rich Asians today for this weekend! I read the incendiaries this summer and was excited to see a post by RO Kwon on my favorite blog.

  71. Sarah K says...

    So glad to see this post on CoJ! I was wondering (hoping/waiting) to see if Crazy Rich Asians would be mentioned on my favorite blog. As an Asian American, I too was moved by seeing Asians speaking English on screen. I mean, when I think of it, it’s odd I felt moved by something that I live everyday in reality but as Kwon mentioned, I’m so used to Asians being portrayed as side characters who barely speak! It is maddening that studios doubt that an Asian American lead wouldn’t draw as much of an audience. I don’t believe that’s true. Happy to hear of so many upcoming projects starring Asian Americans in the works. It’s about time!

  72. Grace says...

    Reminds me of an old CoJ post where Joanna asked who is your celebrity lookalike…even just a few years ago, basically the only Asian female celebrity most Americans could think of was Lucy Liu (from Hollywood at least, maybe a couple of others from the Olympics for a stretch), and I look nothing like her (I wish!). How things have changed :’)

    • Allison says...

      I was thinking of that post and the sobering reality when I saw Crazy Rich Asians this weekend!

  73. Elizabeth says...

    I loved this film because it was just BEAUTIFUL. I cried and laughed and swayed to the music. I’m so excited that this was filmed!

  74. Shayna says...

    This reminds me of seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the first time this spring. A band I’ve loved since high school, fronted by a half-Korean woman, like me. I exploded with so many emotions! I had some kind of notion it would be an important experience because Karen is such a badass and the band and their music products of years and years of friendship and loyalty and originality.

    I could never have anticipated feeling so released and empowered. It was a cathartic and primal experience. As any minority in the United States, it’s not common to see yourself — your features, your heritage, your culture, your parents’ culture — reflected back at you in such a meaningful way. And R.O. expressed it perfectly: you suppress the wanting for such a thing, without even knowing, after years of not expecting. For the encore? Karen donned a cape covered in sequined hangul!

    • Cay says...

      Omg, so funny that you mention the Yeah Yeah Yeahs! Karen was the first mixed race Asian I ever saw in the public eye (and is still one of the very, very few). It was life changing to me as a teen. We are different types of half-Asian (I’m Indian), but the idea that someone from a mixed, half-Asian family had made it in rock music was still so, so powerful.

      Helps that she’s the coolest person ever, of course. Talk about giving the middle finger to the “Asian women are so demure” stereotype.

    • Ellie says...

      I had a similar reaction when I saw M.I.A. rapping at a music festival a few years ago. Being Asian there’s this assumption that we’re supposed to be quiet, small and submissive, that if we succeed in music it’s because we play classical piano or violin or cello. M.I.A. was none of those things, and it was so freeing to watch her. I’ve seen more Asian-American musicians pop up in the past few years (Kishi Bashi, Hanni El Khatib, Thao Nguyen), and when I’ve seen each of them live I was surprised when I had this visceral feeling bloom up inside of me of just being…seen? Like I matter? Like I don’t have to just be ONE type of person? Representation matters so, so much.

    • Celia says...

      Yessss Shayna! I feel the same way about Karen O! I watched the YYY’s perform last October at the King’s Theatre and all those teenage emotions came flooding back — it was rough going as a half Korean kid back in the day. Heck, it still is now. I highly recommend reading/watching Jenny Han’s To All the BoysI Loved Before books/movie, by the way!

  75. Sasha L says...

    Thank you for this, so beautiful. I don’t usually go to movies in theaters, but I’m going to this one. I want my dollars to send the message to Hollywood that representation matters to me. I hope to see many many more movies filling the ridiculous gap for representing POC authentically.

    • Jessica Brown says...

      Yes!

    • A Martin says...

      Amen to this! Yes!!

  76. JP says...

    I cried too! I went by myself and the woman sitting next to me and I both started laughing b/c we were crying so much. I’m half-Indian, and I consider any Asian representation a big win for us all!

  77. Elysha says...

    I loved this post! I felt a similar way when I watched Wonder Woman at the theater and also found myself in tears to see a strong female running across the battlefield, saving the day.

    • jen says...

      Exactly. And Thelma and Louise.

    • Amy says...

      Came here to say the same! I was legit shocked at the tears streaming down my face during many parts of that movie. It was a true, who is cutting onions in this theater / why the f am I crying?! moment, and then later unpacking all those feelings…wow.

    • Gen says...

      Hell, I bawled at 2016 Ghostbusters. Smart ladies? Working together? To fight the bad guys? Doing dangerous work they’ve trained for? And are experts at? With zero attention paid to the ideas of marriage, boyfriends, or dressing up, worrying, acting dumb, etc, to get a guy? Ahhhmazing. I’m not Asian but can catch a tiny glimpse of what CRA must mean to Asian Americans. Go Hollywood! Catch up to reality! You can do it.

  78. Jeanne says...

    Growing up there wasn’t a single, normal Asian representative in any media besides Connie Chung (thank you Connie!!). It’s such a weird, isolating experience not seeing anyone in entertainment who looked remotely like yourself. I’m not sure most people can even imagine it because they’re so used to seeing daily representatives of themselves. I was old enough to see Joy Luck Club and like the author, I cried during the whole film because there were people onscreen who mirrored the life I led in a normal, everyday way. I totally underestimated the emotional effect it would have on me. So 25 years later, I’m thrilled that Crazy Rich Asians can bring this to the forefront again. I long for the day where there isn’t a second thought given to all the different races, sizes and lifestyles one sees in media because, quite simply, that’s how it is in everyday life.