I watched Crazy Rich Asians last night and I have thoughts!
(1) I was really moved by the Chinese (Mandarin and Canto) music that was unapologetically not English. Deeply appreciated the mix of Chinese pop songs from Hong Kong and China as well as the English songs with Chinese words (that weren’t necessarily direct translations, re: Yellow by Coldplay), all perfectly capturing the spectrum of Asian-American experiences.
(2) I related, surprisingly, to the Singaporean characters who were raised bilingual and bicultural, educated abroad or possibly in international schools, and who seamlessly weave between two worlds #TCK.
(3) Unsurprisingly, I related less to the Asian-American character though my heart did burst when her own mother said she looks Chinese but is different. Feeling like an outsider because of how you look is never fun... especially if you’re fluent in the culture(s). Despite not fully relating with the Asian-American narrative, I caught myself feeling bad/awkward that the White woman next to me didn’t laugh at any of the amazing Asian references that I LOLed at. I’m glad she’s there to learn about life as I see it, and I guess I’m ok with being the insider for a change.
(4) I loved all the normal things that were not played up as Asian because they were just... normal! Mah jong 💕 using chopsticks 💕 outdoor food markets 💕 using ‘la’ at the end of sentences because that’s how we talk ga ma 💕 the glorious and flavorful non-Chinese takeout food 💕 aunties and uncles 💕 and motifs on the importance of family, of saving face, of being a good host, of passive aggressiveness, of demonstrating love through sacrifice, of filial piety.
(5) I knew people had talked about being moved by an all Asian cast, but didn't realize how validating it would actually feel until I saw it on the big screen. No stupid kung fu. No annoying sidekicks. But attractive, funny, relatable protagonists. Asian and American. Having said that, I must say again that I am neither Asian nor White. I’m mixed, which is also more than the mere combination of the two. I may check two boxes on forms if I have the option, but really there should be a new box for what I am... an entirely distinct third identity.
(6) After chatting with my friend, Greg Hsu, I appreciated his insight on how Crazy Rich Asians was a traditional rom-com in many ways, but did not ascribe to western norms of how romantic comedies might end. Remaining true to the importance of filial obedience in Asian culture, Nick and Rachel's engagement does not happen until Eleanor assents to it. Even then, she gives Rachel a brief smile instead of a big, warm "we accept you" embrace that we are used to seeing/expecting in western films. CRA shows the hard decisions Asian(-American)s make when dealing with family, love, and filial obedience.