The Impact of Crazy Rich Asians


Nellie Shih, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The Impact of Crazy Rich Asians

Nellie Shih ’19, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Crazy Rich Asians, based on the novel of the same name, stars Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu and newcomer Henry Golding. Wu portrays NYU economics professor Rachel Chu and Golding plays her boyfriend, Nick Young. The romcom follows the couple’s stay in Singapore, where the two are to attend Nick’s best friend’s wedding. As the buzz intensifies surrounding the Nick Young bringing a girl home, Rachel realizes the Young family is among the richest in Singapore.

I read the book when I first heard about the movie’s production and I honestly wasn’t a huge fan. The ending made it seem like the book only existed to set up a sequel, and there were some unnecessary aspects and plot devices. The film adaptation is the first film with an all-Asian leading cast in a modern setting since the 1993 film Joy Luck Club. Based on my opinion of the book, when I realized Crazy Rich Asians was going to prove whether or not Asian-American leads sold, I was nervous. But, I ended up loving the movie (this is coming from someone who isn’t known for liking the romcom genre).

I loved that essentially everything I didn’t like about the book was cut or changed. I loved the extravagant and opulent set and costumes. I loved how the actors’ dynamics ranged from heartwarming to sad to hilarious. I loved the dialogue in Mandarin specifically because the person sitting in front of me was blocking the translation for some of the dialogue. I loved that the cast bonded by making dumplings together. I loved the conflict between Rachel and Nick’s mother: “[It’s about] the experience of being Asian-American,” said Constance Wu. “How it shapes you differently than the experience of being Asian-Asian.”

Despite the generally positive reception, there has been some criticism that the film does not represent all Asians: it focuses on a group of light-skinned characters and actors of East Asian descent, only featuring a few South Asian actors in non-speaking roles as servants. There have been arguments that the film isn’t relatable because of the excessive wealth. Furthermore, there has been criticism of the casting of Henry Golding and Sonoya Mizuno. Golding and Mizuno are both of mixed heritage, unlike the characters they portray. The filmmakers have argued that yes, there is a focus on a very specific group of people, but they are not portrayed as rice planters in conical bamboo hats, nor as martial artists. Furthermore, the filmmakers assert that the film is relatable: it’s about love, friendship, and family. It’s a meet-the-parents story. Director Jon Chu is more than aware of the whitewashing of Asians in Hollywood and sees where the criticism is coming from. Sociologists and reports have argued that by focusing on the actors’ white heritage, their Asian descent is being erased. They assert it’s wrong to classify Asian actors as “Asian” and “Not Asian Enough.”

Nevertheless, Crazy Rich Asians is a step towards diversity and equity in Hollywood, and has sparked important conversations. One thing that does make the film particularly empowering is the push for the Mandarin cover of the song “Yellow” by Coldplay. Initially, Coldplay turned down the request of the song’s use in the film, and Warner Bros. considered the song’s title problematic. But that was the point. In a letter to Coldplay, director Jon Chu wrote: “[The color yellow] has always had a negative connotation in my life. That is, until I heard your song … it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways I had ever heard.” Coldplay was persuaded, and the song was recorded by Katherine Ho, a USC freshman and contestant on season 10 of The Voice. The song is played at the end of the film, when the characters Rachel, Astrid, and Nick realize their self-worth, who they are, and that they are proud of who they are.


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