I am not rich, nor crazy, but I am Asian. Kevin Kwan needs to complete NS.

I was confused when Crazy Rich Asians debuted in America and thousands of newsites screaming “CRA: AN EQUALIZER FOR THE ASIAN COMMUNITY?” “DIVERSE REPRESENTATION IN HOLLYWOOD” or something along those lines drifted on the interwebs. I wasn’t confused because I am Chinese, I can relate to the idea of Asian representation (adequately and finally happening) – I was confused because I am Asian.

‘ASIAN’ does not mean ‘Chinese’. No, these terms are not synonymous. People can popularize and generalize all they want, but ‘Asian’ is a lovely large umbrella term for those who are Pakistani, Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Javanese, Malay – and numerous other beautiful and wonderful races who identify as ‘Asian’ and are of Asian descent.

So, no – CRA is largely made up of Chinese and displays Chinese culture (mostly) and is therefore not representative of our diverse Asian community. ARGUABLY – okay, other Asian ethnicity was ‘represented’ throughout the movie: the guards/cleaners/blue-collar worker. That does not exactly ‘represent’ much about all of these other Asian ethnicities because their culture was not displayed, their thoughts and values were not adequately talked about and within the show, and the focus was on the Chinese Singaporeans being ‘[crazy rich Asians]’.

That being said, as a Singaporean ABC, I feel that I can talk about this – not  because I’m Chinese (no Chinese privilege here, thanks) but because I am Asian, I lived in America, I live in Singapore currently, and no, my brother will not defer NS like the author of CRA.

My first point is that the fight for equality and changing the minds of us wonderful, wonderful people all around the world is a gradual processs. The fight for equality for those under-represented is a progression of efforts towards eventual positive and desired outcomes.

Hence, I daresay that CRA was effective in amplifying this fact that there needed to be more representation in the industry, in Hollywood, in works of literature hailed as ‘iconic’. But, did CRA warrant headlines that claimed that NOW, ALL ASIANS WOULD BE REPRESENTED CLEARLY?

It’s not wrong to say that Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t represent all Asians – because it is the truth. CRA doesn’t represent the sheer beauty of every Asian ethnicity. It is hard to do that in a single movie and a single book. So I feel that the marketing of CRA as the “first win for Asian representation” is off. The primary focus of this novel and movie would be the upper tier of the Mandarin-speaking population. Hence, those from diverse communities can and should be afforded the opportunity to point out that the movie doesn’t showcase all Asians in equal roles. 

This is a big idea that us watchers need to acknowledge, because the stereotypes of certain Asian ethnicity groups being relegated to lower classes could be perpetuated through a show with such high anticipation. Naturally, when something is elevated to the position of ‘iconic’ and ‘highly anticipated’, we can afford to explain why exactly some stereotypes perpetuated in the movie/book are not entirely true, because this ‘iconic’ and ‘highly anticipated’ work becomes a ‘model’ or ‘example’ for others. Meaning that, numerous people will look upon this work – elevated to a role-model-like position – as an accurate judgement of their perspectives or views towards the Asian community as a whole.

CRA is a marker of progress. I agree with that. Crazy Rich Asians is the first movie with an All-Asian Hollywood cast. That is a big deal. The Asian community definitely does receive some form of recognition, be it due to the fact that its cast is All-Asian, or the fact that the culture and lifestyle of Asian-Americians is sold and attempted to be explained by Kevin Kwan.

Now, I first picked up Crazy Rich Asians in Kinokuniya as a Singaporean myself. I was entertained but not educated about my life as a Singaporean Chinese or an ABC. I actually did not feel that much of a prickling of pride that I was being ‘represented’. Instead, I felt more aware of a very specific type of lifestyle that certain groups of people in the Chinese Asian community may lead! That’s cool.

To me, the ‘ representation ‘ purpose is not legit. Because the book and movie are about a lifestyle and about a narrative of a very specific tier and sector of society. This makes Kwan’s work contribute  towards the purpose of entertaining its audience. The fact that Asian actors and actresses star in the movie is expected because the plot is about a Chinese family – and the stunning performances they pull off are representative of how beautiful and amazing the Asian creative community can be! The plot itself may not be representative – the performances are.

However, I’m kind of concerned about the portrayal of Chinese Singaporeans in Kwan’s CRA. Firstly, because he moved to Texas when he was young and he did not perform his duty to the country by completing NS – effectively, he could not come back (barred) from entering the country, even for the premiere of CRA last night. I think that speaks a lot about how much Kwan may know about Singaporean culture and the internal workings of it – like, he obviously may not know much.

Still. A book about Crazy Rich Asians Chinese. Yeah. It’s entertaining. A movie I would watch. But I’d like to refer to my Singaporean textbook to gain more knowledge about CIMO – wait. ‘Others’? I think we need to work on that, too.

My featured image: all these shades of yellow, and I can’t erase the fact that all are beautiful. Although we’re not yellow. We’re just Asian. You should know that. 🙂

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