Asians Watching (Crazy Rich) Asians

Luke Flyer, Georgetown Day High School
Photography by Audrey Cibel, Stoneridge High School

The importance of representation on the big screen. (Published: 2019)

A few months ago, my parents, my sister, my Korean grandparents, and I went to go see the movie, Crazy Rich Asians. We all loved it, and I was laughing almost the entire time.

In the days that followed, I realized two major differences between my usual movie watching experiences and my experience watching Crazy Rich Asians. First, I was simply weirded out by watching a movie with an all Asian cast. Second, I was very satisfied with how Asians had many different personalities and traits, which made the movie much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Although it was a great movie, I felt very strange for around the first ten minutes. It was the first non animated movie I had ever seen where all of the characters were Asian. Of course, before watching the movie, I was aware that the entire cast would be Asian. I mean, the movie isn’t called Crazy Rich Asians for no reason. Even though I was expecting it, watching the beginning felt very odd.

I was, and still am, not used to watching a movie where white actors don’t dominate the screen time. I had grown so accustomed to watching movies with majority white casts that watching anything else felt bizarre. Hope fully, more movies like Crazy Rich Asian will be made so that the next generation of movie watchers will not experience the same strange feeling as I did.

The second difference I noticed was a wholly positive one. In most other movies, there are no Asian characters, or perhaps one or two. Every time an Asian character enters the story, I always brace myself. Please don’t be a nerd, please don’t have uptight parents, please don’t have a boring personality. In these movies, Asian characters shape how people view Asians in the real world. If the characters fit the stereotypes, then all the movie is doing is amplifying the stereotypes.

My experience watching Crazy Rich Asians was different. Because all the characters were Asian, they had to have different personalities and backgrounds for the movie to be interesting. There were loud Asians, quiet Asians, smart Asians, dumb Asians, funny Asians, annoying Asians, poor Asians, crazy Asians, rich Asians, and a lot of crazy rich Asians.

The movie showed that Asians cannot be generalized into having just one or two personality types. For once, I could just sit back and enjoy the movie without worrying about Asian stereotypes being reinforced.

I’m not a movie critic, but I’m pretty sure that watching a movie is not supposed to be an uncomfortable, tense experience. I hope that Asian kids won’t feel uncomfortable when watching a stereotyped, nonwhite cast, and that they won’t worry about how their race is being represented in the movie they are watching. I hope that they can simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the movie. When I had the pleasure of seeing Crazy Rich Asians, I certainly did.