Crazy Rich Asians ★★★½

Watching rom-coms as a lovesick Korean-American teen, I internalized a gnawing fear that no one could fall for me because I didn’t look like those blonde, wide-eyed women leads. If Crazy Rich Asians had existed, perhaps I would have recognized my black hair as ebony rather than coal, my almond-shaped eyes as marquise-cut gemstones rather than bitter pills. 

The above is a thing I wrote for a recent Bustle piece about what this film means to me. The below is an expansion of this idea. 

I spent over 20 years of my life hiding the Korean half of me, emphasizing my Italian half instead. In middle school, I checked “white” on forms and insisted that my hair was brown not black and practiced widening my eyes in the mirror so they wouldn’t squint when I smiled. In high school, I played Elaine Harper in Arsenic and Old Lace and scoffed when my 100% Korean mom told me I was representing Asians on stage. “But I’m white,” I told her. In college, I took six Italian language classes and one Korean cinema class. I can count to 1000 in Italian and to a mere ten in Korean.

It was in college that I also discovered that I loved writing and performing comedy. “But Asians aren’t funny,” my grandma told me. “But Asians aren’t funny,” my mom told me. “But Asians and women aren’t funny,” almost every single American movie and tv show told me. In an audition for a student film, the (white) producer said I reminded him of an Asian Sarah Silverman. He probably meant it innocuously, perhaps even as a compliment, but I think about this every time I consider pursuing acting. If I appeared to be fully white, he would’ve just said Sarah Silverman. But I am not, and the idea of presenting myself to a panel of casting directors who have already “othered” me in their minds before even hearing me speak is crushing. 

Crazy Rich Asians tells me (and the world) that Asians can be funny and beautiful and loud and capable of loving and being loved. Yes, much of the dialogue is cliched and classic tropes are sloppily recycled. Yes, the excessive opulence of the Singaporean locations glamorizes extreme wealth more than it critiques it. Yes, I am aware that not all representation is good representation. But get this ... I can’t bring myself to care! Because this is the first time in my 22 years of life that I have gone to the movie theater and seen people who look like me and my family be funny and beautiful and loud and capable of loving and being loved. And the $34 million they earned this opening weekend hopefully means it won’t be the last.

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