*Crazy Rich Asians*

While traveling in Eurasia, I read so many articles about how finally “there was an Asian movie for Asians,” or something like that, and none of them rang true.  Upon seeing the movie I was impressed, though it was not what I was expecting.  It is mostly a dystopia cloaked as a homage (just to be clear, personally I love Singapore, and its people, and have been numerous times).  The underlying message seems to be “Singaporeans are mostly greedy, superficial, uncultured, too brand-conscious, and somewhat unpleasant, unless redeemed by contact with America or Chinese-Americans.”  And their supposed pathologies are presented as very directly and specifically Asian and also Singaporean.  With only a slightly different framing, this film could have been dismissed as unacceptably racist.  And where are those Malays anyway?  And the only two Indian characters are the caricatured Sikh guards?  Really?

Nonetheless as cinema this works, and it is a thrill for me to see Singapore on the big screen and in a #1 movie at that.  On top of that, the female lead is an economics professor at NYU who does game theory.  Here is my earlier review of the book, which I also enjoyed.  For balance, however, you might wish to see Ilo Ilo as well, though that is not a representative sample of Singapore either.

Comments

Is there a work of art that is "a representative sample of" X that is interesting? We read more stories of extraordinary people than ordinary. I've tried to read Ulysess 10 times, and I just don't enjoy it, although I guess Death of A Salesmen is good.

I wonder how reality TV fits in with that idea.

Finnegans Wake is better. Ulysses was written by an arrogant (and, to tell the truth, a not very likable) young man, with an extensive but not very profound education, and it was only until somewhere about 5 years before he died that poor Joyce finally grew up and became the sort of person who knows enough about life to write a book worth reading and thinking about (sadly, that only covers the last few years of his work on Finnegans Wake. I never promised you a rose garden).

Death of a Salesman is badly written but a good actor can make the title role really really good, which I guess means the play is not that badly written.

Just my thoughts, other people view these things differently, I don't care.

Another thought - I predict that in 30 years or so it will be considered hate speech to call a person who lives anywhere but in a mythical country that does not exist, and that has never existed, but which is officially called "Asia", an Asian. And, to explain this in more detail, I predict it will be considered hate speech for the history teachers of the future to call Obama an African-American instead of a Kenyan-American or a Luo-American. Or just American. Or maybe it will be considered hate speech to say other people are engaging in hate speech. Anyway, even today, Singapore is not in Asia it is a Pacific Island.

polenov?
is that russian?

Efim Polenov is a Pseudonym - borrowed from the first chapters of the Brothers Karamazov.

Euphemios is the Greek first name, it means well spoken, the last name means "of the fields" - most Dostoyevsky scholars, and critics, missed the fact that "Efim Polenov" is a name that is appropriate for someone who speaks well but does not bother to do so anywhere else but in the fields (where, for most of the year, there are no workers and no people, only the ripening harvest, on a good spring or summer day, or the empty furrows, on a winter day, and so on).

In English, Fielding, in French, DesChamps, in Italian, Aggerorro, in Chinese , Lingyu, in Thai, Sakhai.,

I have a great aunt named Euphemia (1861-1931). In the first chapters of the novel, nobody did more to raise Ivan and Alyosha than Efim Polenov did (he is basically the stand-in, in a real world where the action took place, for the author whose two most well-defined creations - that is, the only two who reminded him of himself, Ivan and Alyosha - were only raised by a distant relative, Efim Polenov, who, in the end, did not care much for them. just as the actual author realized, as he grew older, that he really did not care as much as he should for anybody, except maybe for people who treated him well, whether he deserved it or not - and his famous bigotry was something he must have realized as a fault in himself, even if he never publicly repented - but then again , who publicly repents? nobody, more or less, that is too much to ask of the average person, right?). It was a humble move on the author's part to give the character in the novel with the most in common with him a name that lacked pride (nobody takes pride in speaking well in empty fields).

sorry for the long comment, I was procrastinating from doing something else (I live in the sort of home where you are often faced with the choice of having to clean up someone's vomit fairly quickly before it stains - come on, lots of people live in homes like that - and it was either (a) write a long comment on the meaning of Efim and Fields or (b) ignore writing the comment and immediately clean the rest of the vomit off the carpet (I of course did the first phase of cleaning, which cannot be put off - it was the second phase, which can be delayed for up to an hour or so, that I was avoiding....)).

And 20 years ago, to the day, I was at an amazing party, where everyone was well dressed and polite and interested in what everyone else said, at a nice house on a beautiful river which you have all heard of, and I am sure that on that day 20 years ago I did not really think the internet would ever be a thing, or that, if were going to be a thing, that I would ever be posting updates on carpet cleaning therein ....

The Virgin Suicides?

Good soundtrack.

Always appreciate your ruminations E.

I'm pretty smart and read lots of hard stuff, but I found Finnegan's Wake utterly impenetrable after several attempts, and I don't personally know anyone able to make their way through it. I'm 53 now, and I'm sure I'll never read it. Hell, I may never ski again! (That day comes for all of us but some may not notice it until years later.) Anyway, keep on truckin'.

"I predict that in 30 years or so it will be considered hate speech to call a person who lives anywhere but in a mythical country that does not exist, and that has never existed, but which is officially called "Asia", an Asian."

Perhaps as today some consider it an offense to call an Asian an Oriental.

Dubliners is better too, though it is not a novel.

Isn't there just as good a chance that ,in a lot less than thirty years, people will become utterly fed up with political correctness. The term "hate speech" will be used only by comedians as a form of ridicule.

'The term "hate speech" will be used only by comedians as a form of ridicule.'

Probably not in Germany, as one can see from the current attempts of right wing devotees hunting down anyone they think is a foreigner. But considering Germany's modern history of hate speech leading to genocide, it might not be applicable to the U.S., where the category of 'hate speech' has no historical attachment to the deaths of millions of human beings.

The German old right knew how to use hate speech, and some traditions just seem to remain part of the culture, regardless of historical experience.

"Probably not in Germany, as one can see from the current attempts of right wing devotees hunting down anyone they think is a foreigner."

Isn't that exactly backwards? Hate speech laws are used AGAINST those who complain about foreigners.

" hate speech leading to genocide" I don't think it was speech that did it. What are you guys hiding?

Anthony Bourdain said he never saw a cop in that place someone called ‘Disney World with the death penalty’

I once saw 2, on the subway, getting off work. But none near redlight district and cheap food stalls.

Of course, it didn't ring true, the paid per-clicks dealers pushing the narrative do not care about Asians.

Those who care about an Asian movie for Asians have watched I dunno, Battle Royale, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Evil Cult, Ip man, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela and so on.

But what do I know?

Those are great movies. Period. Not Asian movies for Asians. :-)

What does that mean, by the way?

Well, first I think it is merely a marketing trick but accepting that I would think the phrase is about movies that are not made in the Hollywood model and mindset that tends to reflect some western and even USA-centric outlooks. Asian's do think differently than westerners so one might expect certain themes in such movies to be confusing to a western audience.

But I do think there are some universal themes as well so a well done movie that is truly an Asian movie for Asians could easily find wide acceptance in the west as many western movies do in the east. (Or should I offend by saying in the orient?)

Kurosawa was able to make a couple of movies so good they were ripped off by Western film makers, and also provide a fair bit of the inspiration for Star Wars.

While Kurosawa is fantastic, remember that Japanese critics often attacked him for being too Western. And his debt to Western film and writing is of course most evident in his brilliant High and Low, an adaptation of a novel by Ed McBain.

It's an Asian *Hollywood* movie for *Asian-Americans*, not an Asian movie for Asians.

That’s an unusual reading of the movie. I read it as a fairly standard romantic comedy/mother in law from hell movie set in a small and very particular type of community within the Chinese diaspora of Asia. Singapore itself was a nice backdrop (in part courtesy of the tourism board, no doubt), but one could have the same movie in, say, Hong Kong or several other Asian cities.

The much heralded diversity really only makes sense within the context of Hollywood casting and the body of opinion as to who should be elevated in status. The movie is really a movie geared towards Americans that is set in this insular community. I agree with different billing it could have easily run afoul of the PC police and been labeled racist, though again, it’s more about the “crazy rich” than the “Asian” per se.

+1. I enjoyed the movie, although I think the rather effusive praise for it by the US media may be due to the movie being “graded on a curve”, so to speak.

The day when the US media does not notice having actors of the "mongoloid race" portray the protagonists in a movie is the day when the US finally becomes a non-racist society. Clearly, we are extremely far from this day (certainly that will not happen in this century unless the US is occupied by China or something radical like that).

That will happen only if Americans outmarry to the point that a distinct "Asian" ethnicity no longer exists. Or, in your scenario, America is assimilated into the Chinese Borg Cube.

It's odd how Diversity actually means less diversity.

When I first heard the title “Crazy Rich Asians”, I was expecting it to be about the so-called Fuerdai of mainland China. There seems to be great potential for a film about them, although it may touch on rather sensitive geopolitical issues!?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuerdai

Bigot!

I haven't read the book but I wonder how much of it was affected by the author skipping national service and being wanted by the Singapore authorities. Singapore's military conscription is one of the longest in the world at 22 months, and applies to permanent residents as well as citizens.

There's an ongoing story now involving the first Singaporean soccer player to sign with a premier league club, and being forced to choose between stardom and service.

Korea has national service around the same duration - but if you’re a really successful sportsperson, you may win exemption:
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/aug/29/son-heung-min-south-korea-military-service-asian-games

Just like Black Panther wasn't about Africans, but African-Americans, Crazy Rich Asians isn't about Asians, but Asian Americans.

That said, the Mahjong scene, which won't make all that much sense if you don't understand Mahjong, was meaningful: better than expected. I compare it to, say, Searching for Bobby Fisher, where the chess makes less sense if you are any good at chess.

Of course, specially because the US (and to a lesser degree other english speaking countries) is the only place where there persists the notion of people being identified as "Asian" that is, members of the "mongoloid race". In most other countries physical phenotypes are more associated with nationality than with "race".

A Chinese movie made for a Chinese audience titled "crazy rich Asians" wouldn't need "Asian" part, it would only be "crazy rich people". By making a movie titled "crazy rich Asians" one is automatically being racist.

a book called "stuff white people like" was written by white people for white people. aince it wasn't called "stuff people like", are they racists too?

i'm guessing you think "black panther" should just be called "panther"?
kipling's "white man's burden" should be called "man's burden" but perhaps thats sexist too so just "burden". this is some seriously loopy logic being displayed here. where does it end?

The movie is called "Crazy Rich Asians" because the Asians in the movie are crazy rich. This is not racist at all and in fact quite fitting. Please save your outrage for something more worthy like Trump's latest drama queen tweet.

Even the fact that the movie was called "Crazy Rich Asians" demonstrates that the movie is aimed at Asian-Americans, namely those of Chinese or generally East Asian (and some SE Asian, especially Vietnam and the Philippines) descent, as "Asian" in the US still generally denotes those people from those countries, or what used to be called "Oriental" before that fell out of favor, and is mostly exclusive of people from the Indian subcontinent. Literally, of course, the Indian subcontinent is in Asia, and there has been some trend among younger Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi Americans to think of themselves as "Asian-American" in the way "Asian" is understood in the UK, but the process is still tenuous and may not come to fruition. It isn't a surprise that Singapore's Indian community features so little in Crazy Rich Asians, as the movie is aimed at Asian-Americans and Indian people still aren't quite a part of that group as it has existed for the past 70 odd years.

"finally “there was an Asian movie for Asians,”"

Finally! You'd think that China, Korea, Japan et al might have movie industries featuring Asian actors in Asian stories, but I guess.... not?
Who'd've thunk it?

And the word break is farked up.

Movies for and by English speaking Asians are mostly nonexistant. This matters for those of Asian ancestry in the Anglosphere. IMHO, Harold and Kumar should count as an Asian-American movie even though its a stoner flick.

These people should grow out of their racist ideas: why one should care so much about the "racial" phenotype of actors unless one is a racist?

You have this backwards. If Hollywood acts in a discriminatory way against a group, then that is pure racism 100%. Nothing wrong with marginalised groups seeking better representation.

I guess Harold & Kumar would also break the stereotype of Asians as straight-laced, nerd types. Racial progress!

Yes, the word breaks are really messed up, but not in the text HTML - probably someone attempting to enhance the user experience over multiple platforms. One can assume that the Director of Digital Strategy will be dealing with it in the next few hours.

Of course the main character is half white! And there are Korean, Japanese, and Filipino actors! Just throw the Pinoy in there, nobody will notice! Dumplings and mahjong? A Cambodian gong to ring in the tan hua blossom? Really? Did they leave the kung fu and triads on the cutting room floor?

I kid. But I do think it was important that the writer and director were Asian to remove any suspicion of yellow face and fetitization. Can't blame anyone for being suspicious of Hollywood's portrayal of Asian cultures.

The movie was very sympathetic toward rich people and their somewhat unique (though in other ways universal) family and in law problems.

It also was pretty accurate in the way it depicted the uncomfortableness of interacting with rich people who are being REALLY nice to you but you think they probably look down on you...

It reminded me of the time I visited an ex girlfriend in Hong Kong and met her relatives... it reminded my friend of going back to Taiwan to visit family too, so it seems to me that there is an emotional truth to the movie underneath the extravagant set pieces.

The fact the main character is supposedly an econ professor was total set dressing to signal her worthiness though, the movie had one disappointingly superficial discussion of anything econ related and didn't discuss the larger implications (outside of family drama) of "crazy" wealth at all. Mostly being an econ professor means being good at card games and mahjong, apparently.

The relentless focus on beauty & fashion & shopping & partying could come across as superficial, despite the sympathetic portrayal, I guess... But I think it depends on the values you bring into the movie. I don't think the movie criticizes the characters for being that way and in fact, Astrid's big moment of personal growth comes when she realizes she did nothing wrong when she went on shopping sprees and it wasn't her job to shield her husband's ego from the fact of her wealth.

On the other hand, the truly "idle" rich who ONLY are concerned with partying get a less sympathetic portrayal, but the movie seems to say that as long as rich people have good family values and work ethic all the partying is OK, that's just who they are as rich people and the byproducts of extreme wealth can be, actually, very beautiful and special.

_1

My wife (from HK) was mostly upset that this supposed coming out party of Asians in Hollywood didn't feature the already well-known most attractive Asian actors (arguably most attractive people) - Shu Qi and Eddie Peng.

"Michelle Yeoh is hot but she's old now"

Shu Qi doesn't speak English well (at all?)

This movie was about English-speaking Asians. In southeast Asia, only three countries have an English-speaking tradition -- Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The first two have a British colonial tradition, while the last has an American colonial tradition.

HK, Taiwan, China have sinitic cultures which do not fit the narrative of the original story.

So I guess Australia and New Zealand don't get to call themselves Asian countries?

Joking a little but clearly geographically....

They will be, don't you worry.

This book/script was picked up for Hollywood not because it's particularly relevant to Asian-Americans, but because Asian-Americans want non-Asian Americans to see and validate stories about them, and Americans of all races are universally opposed to subtitles (even grouping Asian-Americans together requires avoiding native languages as much as possible, evidenced by the glaring mostly-absence of Chinese in Fresh Off the Boat, maybe partly because the father is played by a Korean-American). Without these constraints, the story could have been both much more relevant (Asian-Americans have overwhelmingly more ties with greater China than they do with Sinitic Southeast Asia like SG/MY) and probably much more interesting and garish too (someone mentioned China's fuerdai before).

> Americans of all races are universally opposed to subtitles

Not sure if this is true.... this sounds like overstatement. It is true that subtitles are unpopular among the "cool" crowd (there are even memes about this), especially if the entire film is in a foreign language, but objections to judicious use of subtitles aren't as strong as you might think (exceptions abound; foreign films, humorous dialog, etc.)

> evidenced by the glaring mostly-absence of Chinese in Fresh Off the Boat, maybe partly because the father is played by a Korean-American

Again this line of reasoning doesn't ring true. It is true that there's limited Chinese in FOTB, but not for the reasons you stated.

> Sinitic Southeast Asia like SG/MY

SG/MY are not sinitic cultures. HK/TW/CN are.

You must have missed Sex and the City, Entourage, and Downton Abbey. There are plenty of other dramas about rich white people who don't have to concern themselves with brown people and find redemption by contact with American culture.

The underlying message seems to be “Singaporeans are mostly greedy, superficial, uncultured, too brand-conscious, and somewhat unpleasant, unless redeemed by contact with America or Chinese-Americans.”

So they are normal people. The movie Romcom wedding itself is not new (My Greek Wedding did not go Greece etc.) but done right it can be good.

I haven't seen the movie but the idea of a here "an Asian movie for Asians" puzzles me...

I mean, countries like India, China, Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan have very powerful movie industries that produce great movies in their own right: Asians movies made for Asians and for the natives of all other continents :-) :-)

It is a bit paternalistic and "US-centric" to look at a movie as representing a certain racial group. Asians (Chinese? Singaporean? Taiwanese? Korean?) don't need that.

It's an Asian *Hollywood* movie for *Asian-Americans*, not an Asian movie for Asians.

Practically, yes. But 5% of the US market (or far less if you're actually targeting at the definition of "Asians" as followed by the movie) is not a winning proposition, hence some of the marketing direction.

"not a winning proposition"

Crazy Rich Asians has been the number #1 box office movie two weeks in a row.
https://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/?view=year&p=.htm

In the US, at least, most of 5% of the US and some of the rest is probably enough. (Though two weeks of falling grosses means it's probably more that this is the current marketed "big movie" than much else).

My point is that "An Chinese-American movie for Chinese-Americans, that indulges Chinese-American fantasies", as it is, is probably not such a great sell, internationally, as "An Asian Hollywood movie for all Asians". (The marketing in the US seems more like "And you're cool and open minded if you go to watch it").

The marketers might be able to advertise the movie as both.

That is, t3tsubo has the correct description: "It's an Asian *Hollywood* movie for *Asian-Americans*"

Whereas "an Asian movie for Asians” is Tyler's somewhat clumsy and somewhat inaccurate (by his own admission) description.

But for the international market that you mention, the marketers might be able to pitch the movie that way, with its Singapore location and international cast. I don't know enough about marketing films in Asia to have a prediction there.

For the US market though: Crazy Rich Asians is looking like it might be #1 three weeks in a row.
http://collider.com/crazy-rich-asians-friday-box-office/

"just to be clear, personally I love Singapore, and its people, and have been numerous times"

Thanks for clarifying, no one cares

Seems like the entire premise is flawed and perhaps is a bit like Black Panther being a African movie. I've also seen the "Asian movie for Asians" claim in (English language) Asian papers but the statement about Asian's needing the American or Asian-American influence seems to suggest it was basically a Hollywood movie. (The conclusion a Nigerian film critic came to regarding Black Panther).

Then there is the common sense -- there are thousands of movies made in Asia, for Asian consumption, directed by Asians, containing Asian actors (either culturally or geographically as appropriate) with purely Asian cultural and social themes, ethos and the like.

When I watch Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Tagalog or Mongolian films while I am often struck by the common human traits it's clear they are not directed at a western mindset.

Of course this blurb from wiki might help explain the way we might interpret the claim of "asian film for asians".

"In 2014, Kwan was named as one of the "Five Writers to Watch" on the list of Hollywood's Most Powerful Authors published by The Hollywood Reporter."

“Nonetheless as cinema this works”.
Thank you. When asked to review it I answered:
I am not sure one should dare to say it.... but my wife and me, we liked it ☺

It's a rom-com/Great Gatsby fantasy. I think the all Asian hype is a bit too much Hollywood patting itself on the back. Chinese posters who saw it in the West say that only the mahjong scene was insightful. I do wish thet had included a few Malay and Indian guests at the freinds' wedding - showing Singapore as if it is almost all ethnic Chinese is bothersome...

This is really a case of you're not Asian enough to understand that there ARE (existence not universality) Asian values that in a western lens could be seen as racist / prejudicial.
Example:
- Having personal maids / guards / chauffeurs would be considered slavery in the United States.
- Rich Chinese in Asia prefer that their children marry someone who is Chinese and can speak the language. (i.e. vehement stance against inter-race / inter-class marriages)
Not arguing that it is correct / moral. But these realities, which were depicted accurately by the movie, are present if not pervasive in Asian societies - including Singapore.

And I suppose if you want a truly representative story from Singapore, you'd recommend Jack Neo movies? I Not Stupid and Money No Enough?

World divides in two. The racist and the not racist.

“there was an Asian movie for Asians,”

(((Hollywood))) movie for Asians.

Always appreciate your thoughts. it seems to me that there is an emotional truth to the movie underneath.

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