Crazy Poor Asian Representation

The romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians will be released on August 17th of this year (Photo by Chelsea Evangelista).

The romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians will be released on August 17th of this year (Photo by Chelsea Evangelista).

In today’s film industry, it can be difficult to identify mainstream movies that have a good number of Asian actors in their cast. On the rare occasions they are present, they are often portrayed as nerdy mathletes or masters of martial arts. The movie Crazy Rich Asians, however, may change these norms.

“It’s important to show diversity; I feel like it’s good to show that Asians aren’t as left out and that there are roles only Asians can do,” says senior Kyle Joerger.

Based off the bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan of the same name, Crazy Rich Asians is the first major Hollywood movie with an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club—a movie that was released 25 years ago. This begs the question: why has it taken so long for this to happen?

“I think [it is because of] name recognition; a lot of times, we want blockbuster names, and since [there are] not a ton of Asian actors and actresses [that are] well known, they don’t bring that recognition… I also think that, in order for something to change, people have to care about it, and… either people don’t care that [characters are] being portrayed by non-Asian actors or they haven’t found a voice to express that yet,” says social studies teacher Jenna Griner.

Regardless of how the director pushed for the movie’s authenticity, it is an integral part of how the story is told. It is not merely a fictional story, but it also showcases the differentiating lives of Asians and Asian Americans; moreover, how they differ from the lives of other Americans.

“I think it’s important [to portray characters’ race correctly] because other people should learn the lifestyle and culture of all races, and not just stereotype them from their prior knowledge. People tend to assume and don’t realize that there are more [racial] groups in the world than just black and white,” says sophomore Devki Bhatt.

In the past years, Hollywood has been accused of a phenomenon known as “whitewashing,” wherein characters of foreign descent, usually Asian, are played by white actors. This has become a recurring problem that has caused backlash on movies such as Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell. Perhaps the reason for this is because of the economic advantage directors and producers essentially gain from whitewashing.

“The bottom line is always money, so if you’re pandering to the American audience, they’re not really that interested in something Asian. So, if I’m going to spend millions to making a movie, I need millions in return. [If] I don’t think I have a market for that particular type of film, I’m not [going to] do it,” explains social studies teacher Coach Mac.

Other reasons for whitewashing may be because filmmakers want to use well-known white actors due to their familiarity and relatability to a predominantly white audience.

“I think, with Asians, filmmakers know that [movies] won’t be as big [of] a hit. If they use white actors, people who watch it [may] relate [the movie] to themselves easier,” says Joerger.

Due to the concept of having an all-Asian cast not being particularly common to the American film industry yet, this may cause a lower budget allocated to advertising the film, hence, an unfortunate smaller audience turnout.

“I’m pretty in-tuned to movies, and I haven’t even heard of [Crazy Rich Asians]. So, that kind of goes to that question in [and] of itself of [the movie] even being as fully advertised across all platforms as it would be if it wasn’t a totally non-Asian cast… I think some people will probably go see the movie because it’s an all-Asian cast [and] it’s groundbreaking, [but] I [also] think that it might [be] less advertised which would result in a low turnout,” says Griner.

Though this movie initially breaks the status quo that has been instilled in society for numerous decades, the ever-changing minds of generations may help propel this change.

“A lot of things have changed now; with social media and the ability to reach out, a lot of things that were culturally diverse are now becoming more cross-cultural… [There’s] more diversity, I think, because of the ability to reach out and understand each other a little bit more, especially with [today’s generation],” says Coach Mac.

Despite the obstacles with audience attraction and the possibly lackluster income, directors and producers should still push for more accurate cultural representation of not just Asians, but all minorities.

“It’s a chance, especially if you’re a part of that cultural group, to kind of see somebody from your community in a light that is, you know, maybe heroic or important, or just recognizing your existence in the world,” says Griner.