Everything You Need to Read After Watching Crazy Rich Asians

Monday, August 20, 2018

P H O T O  B Y  W A R N E R  B R O S  S T U D I O
So here's how it should go down:
STEP ONE. Read the books because they're fantastic and delicious and summery (and summer's almost over).

STEP TWO. Scan the pre-screening syllabus for a loose framework to understand what's at stake and at play: Everything You Need to Read Before Watching Crazy Rich Asians

STEP THREE: Watch Crazy Rich Asians for the first time.

STEP FOUR: Skip the media scan/Twitter binge because we've literally done it for you with this post. Or find literally very article here, on Crazy Rich Artists.

BONUS STEP: Listen to the soundtrack, especially Kina Grannis' cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" because it's making me reconsider my blue-collar courthouse wedding dreams in favor of something worthy of this entrance music.

STEP FIVE: Contribute comments and think pieces because no matter your level of fluency or experience with cultural film critique (I have none) -- for the first time in our entire lives, we have an entry-level opportunity for dialogue! Asian American journalists get to write about subjects/opinions that don't center the dominant discourse! That's what gets me giddy about CRA (in addition to Chris Pang, who was interviewed earlier in the year by TaiwaneseAmerican.org).

STEP SIX: Watch Crazy Rich Asians for the second time. Call your mom and tell her you love her.

*MUST READ* The Symbolism of Crazy Rich Asians' Pivotal Mahjong Scene, Explained | Jeff Yang for Vox
One of the most beautiful things about Crazy Rich Asians is how it refuses to explain many of its most intrinsically Asian elements. That lack of training wheels is intentional: As director Jon M. Chu told me, “We didn’t want to give people an excuse to think of this world as some kind of obscure, exotic fantasyland — this is a real place, with real culture, history and tradition, and instead of just giving them answers to their questions, we want them to have conversations.”
*MUST READ* Going Virile: How 'Crazy Rich Asians' Redefines Hollywood' Asian Man | Cary Chow for The Undefeated 
Jon Chu, the 38-year-old Chinese-American director of Crazy Rich Asians who grew up in Palo Alto, California, knows the history and stereotype of the desexualized Asian man all too well:
“I was always taught to keep my head to the ground, keep working, be better. Not let those things [negative media portrayals] affect me. That’s not easy when you’re growing up trying to define your own masculinity, trying to find out what it means to be a man to yourself, when everyone’s telling you you’re not. It’s almost like you can’t comprehend it until after you’ve been through it and look back. You don’t know why you feel like you want to hide your Asian-ness because you think people will look at you weird; or you don’t know why you’re so scared to meet your girlfriend’s parents because they have no idea that you’re Asian, but when they look at you, you’re going to see it in their eyes immediately. Those things are painful to think about. Even right now I’m feeling emotional talking about it. But you don’t know how that feels until it happens.” 
*MUST READ* Opinion: Don't Sweat the #Repsweats And Let 'Crazy Rich Asians' Be What It Is | Kat Chow for NPR
Crazy Rich Asians is not a movie that intends to tackle heady issues of race or colonialism directly; rather, it sets out to tell a love story, in the vein of Cinderella, and to poke fun at the opulence of the wealthy. It shows very plainly how a Chinese-American woman named Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) navigates a very specific household in a very specific neighborhood in a very specific Asian country. I could put on my cocktail party voice and ramble on about how one could probably argue that the movie embodies the undulating predicament of constantly being an outsider-insider and what things like place and origin and diaspora have to do with that and how that's all very much an immigrant thing, but I won't. Because to me, that is all beside the point.
Asian America's Great Gatsby Moment | Mark Tseng-Putterman for The Atlantic
But it’s unfair to single out Crazy Rich Asians for its apparent concern with white standards of respectability. The arguable crowning of media representation as the defining Asian American issue points to some deep concerns about how we are perceived. While many speak of the legitimate importance of seeing people who look like themselves on screen, the investment in mainstream depictions in particular—often to the marginalization of a thriving Asian American indie-film circuit—implies a preoccupation with not only (or even primarily) how Asian Americans see ourselves, but also how others see us.

‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,’ and the Growing Pains of Representation | Donnie Kwak for The Ringer
This is the Catch-22 of representation, raising difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about how we want to see ourselves depicted on screen. There are no absolute rights or wrongs in this uncharted territory, only worthy discourse. However, dialogue about these prickly issues—about casting, about colorism, about interracial dating—is largely occurring in private, or at least being confined to the margins. Publicly, the Asian American community has been gobsmacked by positivity, banding together in hopeful solidarity to help these films succeed. 
 Crazy Rich Asians  Is the Love Letter to My People I Never Had a Chance to Write | Adele Lim for Glamour
With Crazy Rich Asians, I had to do none of that. I felt these characters in my bones—they looked and acted like my family members or people I knew. Their voices were ones I grew up with. Their vices, predilections, and obsession with food and luxury handbags were details etched in my DNA. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is one that isn't in the book—we had to compress plot points to squeeze it into a two-hour movie—and that's a scene of Rachel, the protagonist, playing mahjong with Eleanor, her boyfriend's mother.craz
'Crazy Rich Asians': Read the Letter That Convinced Coldplay to Allow "Yellow" in the Movie | Rebecca Sun for Hollywood Reporter
To director Jon M. Chu, the only tune that could fit the bill was Coldplay’s 2000 breakthrough single "Yellow.” Warner Bros. was concerned that the song’s title was problematic (the word has been used as an ethnic slur against Asians), but that’s exactly why Chu wanted it. “We’re going to own that term,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in an outtake from THR’s cover story. “If we’re going to be called yellow, we’re going to make it beautiful.”
Crazy Rich Asians: Behind the Soundtrack's Multilingual Covers of Madonna, Coldplay, and More | Shirley Li for Entertainment
Getting into it meant gathering as many songs as possible that matched what Chu’s vision. Hilfer and the director collaborated on creating lengthy playlists of potential songs, gathering both vintage tracks (like those of Grace Chang and Yao Lee, two Chinese singers from the ’50s and ’60s) and contemporary ones (from artists like Kina Grannis and Miguel) to choose from for the final soundtrack. The pair scoured YouTube and classic films for help and searched for vocalists fluent in Chinese to handle the covers.
Crazy Rich Asians Is Going to Change Hollywood. It's About Time | Karen Ho for TIME
Even Eleanor, who butts heads with Rachel, isn’t a typical potential monster-in-law—she just comes from a different world and thinks only of what’s best for her son and the families that depend on him. “In the old traditional sense, the elders came first. They were always put ahead of us,” Yeoh explains. “That’s how we showed filial piety and love.” The film, Yeoh says, represents “a great opportunity to show our heritage and our traditions from the Asian side.” 
And, above all:
Gentle reminder that "Asian Black Panther" is less than ideal wording, especially here, where [Asian Americans] demand to be included in Black-led movements without contribution of labor or support. I get that the intention is to wish for a film that's for and by ]Asian Americans]. In this case it's more appropriate, [in my opinion], to talk about that specifically instead of using a shorthand that's evocative of our community's tendency to feel entitled to whatever Black people create. | @NoTotally

With crazy rich love,
LC

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