First Black Panther, now Crazy Rich Asians: how Hollywood minority voices are going mainstream
The Hollywood movie Crazy Rich Asians has become a whirlwind, sweeping across America and spreading to the rest of the world, with Hong Kong also caught up in it. The movie, which just led the North American box office for a third straight weekend, has received not only some great word of mouth praise from movie-goers but also criticism about over-generalising the Singaporean identity as being Chinese while neglecting its multicultural dimension.
Over the past few years, we have grown used to seeing more unfamiliar faces of colour play leading roles on screen. Media reports suggest that Crazy Rich Asians is not just a movie but also part of a movement, and I agree. In spite of the criticism of underrepresentation, I believe that we are witnessing a change in global cinema, in which overlooked minorities are making their voices heard.
After a long wait of 25 years, since The Joy Luck Club in 1993, we finally have another Hollywood movie with a full Asian cast, portraying an Asian-American girl who has a hard time dealing with her boyfriend’s extremely wealthy family. Central to the movie is a set of Chinese values, including filial piety and a family-first policy, a lot of which have to do with Confucianism.
Critics who say that the movie fails to represent a truly multicultural Singapore and reproduces the “Chinese supremacy” ideology may be right; underrepresentation is always difficult to avoid. If we blend too many different cultural elements into one movie, it will lose focus and its audience.
What the movie does do is tell us that it is possible for everyone to be represented in mainstream media, regardless of their race.
The movie is especially meaningful for immigrants in the white-dominant countries because non-white children are finally seeing some faces like their own on screen. British actress Gemma Chan, who plays Astrid Teo, the leading man’s gorgeous and fashionable cousin, even recalled that her parents told her not to be an actress because they had never seen themselves represented on TV.
The political value of the movie, therefore, makes it all the more important. It encourages ethnic minority groups around the world to pursue their dreams bravely, as no one would have thought that an all-Asian Hollywood movie would do so well at the global box office, along with films such as Black Panther, the first major superhero movie to feature an African-American protagonist with a nearly all-black cast.
I am glad to be able to witness a historic cinematic movement in Hollywood, where the minorities are finally taking centre-stage.
Anson Chan, North Point