So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the movie Crazy Rich Asians that came out a little over two weeks ago. It seems to have taken the world (or at least social media) by storm and maybe you’ve seen it or maybe you haven’t, but don’t worry this post isn’t going to reveal plot spoilers…or I’ll mark anything remotely seen as a spoiler (even though I do recommend you read the book!). Instead this post is about my feelings about this movie…actually this post is about how this movie connected with me as an Asian American who was also an Art major in college 🙂
First, I’ll start with hey, this movie might not have been your cup of tea and I’m not here to convince you to love it, but I do ask that you take it seriously if I start passionately talking about the movie. This movie hit me deep in the core because heck I could almost have been the leading lady, Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu). She’s Asian American and I’m Asian American; she’s dating a guy from Singapore and I’m dating a guy from Singapore. Okay, really the surface stuff ends there because I don’t speak Chinese like she does, I am not a college professor and most of all, my boyfriend is not crazy rich 😛 BUT I do feel that deep down feeling of NOT BEING ENOUGH…I’m not Asian enough to some because I’m pretty dang tall for an Asian female, I’m bad at math and I speak my mind aka no filter. And I’m definitely not American enough because heck I certainly look Chinese with natural black hair and almond eyes. [potential SPOILER] There is a scene where Rachel is straight up told she’s not enough and I felt that sadness and angry in my core. Even if it’s subconscious, I struggle with the scale of “how Asian or American” all the time.
From the movie, Rachel struggles with being accepted by Nick’s (the Singaporean leading man) mother/family. I admit I was fearful meeting my boyfriend’s parents with anxiety that they would think I wasn’t good enough because I’m not “that Asian”. FYI, the boyfriend’s family has been wonderful to me (photos below show me “fitting in” 🙂 ) and I greatly appreciate the fact that it hasn’t been anything like crazy rich Asians, but that feeling of not being enough as Eleanor said to Rachel is so very real.
I’ve realized, I cling to parts of the Asian culture because I really want my culture to embrace me regardless of my lack of Chinese language. Some examples are: I am a proponent of not washing my hair in Chinese New Year so I don’t wash my luck away. I make sure to vacuum beforehand so everything is tidy for the new year. If my younger sibling got married before me, he would walk under a pair of my pants (he might not like it, but as the older sibling, I will make this happen 😛 ). The list goes on. I know these may sound like crazy superstitions, but it’s all I have to go off of from my older Chinese relatives. It’s like trying to grasp at what I can to find roots somewhere.
But I will say sometimes it’s a double edge sword living in America as an Asian in the sense that I still have people trying to guess where I’m from. When I say California, I get “No really. Where are your people from?”…or the worst one is when they say stuff to me in other Asian languages -_- HELLO I ONLY SPEAK ENGLISH…granted this movie didn’t really touch on the living in American as an Asian, so this is a topic for another blog post or maybe that’s for another movie to touch upon (fingers crossed).
Anyways, back to the movie on hand, most of all, Crazy Rich Asians touched me deep when I finally saw the love of an Asian family portrayed onscreen. It’s hard to explain to folks that don’t have Asian parents, especially an Asian mom, how love is expressed in Chinese culture. The love of an Asian mother is so strongly conveyed on screen that it made me tear up multiple times. Nick’s mom, Eleanor (played by the AMAZING Michelle Yeoh), could have been seen as a calculating and cold woman, but I understand that a lot of Asian parents show love through actions and rarely words. She was loving Nick by making sure he had all the best opportunities in life. Love is shown by giving the best to the children and the children give it back by being obedient and accomplished which again Nick was not being obedient by dating Rachel (hello, there has to be some drama or this wouldn’t be a good romcom 😛 ).
Being a “good Asian” is generally someone who is a doctor, lawyer or engineer who is dating another good Asian person. I joke daily that most of my friends are much better Asian kids because they are all doctors or engineers and I’m over here still trying to figure it out because I was an art major (seriously thanks mom and dad for being cool with that! too bad I don’t use my major in my career 😛 but yay brother for being a good Asian and being an engineer 🙂 ). But the fact that I was one of a few Asian kids in the art classes wasn’t a surprise to me. That’s another point I want to touch on, I don’t use my degree in my career (I’ve been blessed to find joy in my work elsewhere), but I have amazingly talented friends who do work in the art field and I see how they hit roadblocks a lot based on their ethnicity so I hope the roadblocks lessen as more movies with Asian cast becomes the norm.
My end note is, Crazy Rich Asians is really more than a movie because I’ve finally seen that Asians can be more than just the sidekick on screen. It’s possible for our stories to be told as immigrants, ABCs and most of all as humans. If I come off overly passionate about this movie it’s because it’s the first time I could see a part of me onscreen. And it’s the first time a lot of marginalized folks are being seen or heard. So if you talk to me about Crazy Rich Asians, I hope you understand it’s not that I’m trying to sell you on this movie. It’s because I’m excited to finally see an aspect of my life on the big screen. This movie doesn’t speak for all Asians, but hopefully this will be the gateway for your story to be told.