Editor’s Note: Anna Zhang is a writer, teacher, and first generation Fuzhounese American from Brooklyn, New York. The views expressed in this piece are solely her own.
A lot of Asian people I know have this tendency to be perfectionists, myself included.
It’s at once a gift and a curse, passed down by generations of brave and calculative parents who made huge strides to begin life in western worlds. The importance we place on status in our native countries and on new land is paramount because it’s very carefully built to provide a solid ground for us to stand on. Consequently, we’re afraid to take missteps, often paralyzed by the desire to see before we leap, feel certain before we speak, and know before we do.
Maybe that’s why there are so many passionate (and polarized) emotions about the movie, “Crazy Rich Asians,” that’s coming out this summer. As ridiculous as some comments such as, “THIS IS THE NEW BLACK PANTHER” or “DON’T WATCH THIS MOVIE IT’S GONNA PUT US ALL TO SHAME,” may sound, it’s completely understandable where everyone is coming from.
I have done so much wall breaking and door opening for Asians not just in America… but y’all couldn’t come up with a better name than “Crazy Rich Asians”????
Ok. I gotta peep. I won’t be bias either. I’ll give my raw review. Stay tuned.
— BEN BALLER™ (@BENBALLER) April 26, 2018
Crazy Rich Asians also plays into the “saving face” trope which like Joy Luck Club is inherently misogynistic and is a key source of censorship, abuse, and violence against women in Asian communities
— Diane Wong (@XpertDemon) April 24, 2018
I hope you all will support Crazy Rich Asians like how you supported Love Simon for being the first lgbt story produced by a major studio, or like how you supported Black Panther for being the first black superhero movie. Don’t leave behind Asians in ur praise for representation.
— still crying from infinity war (@tkalovell) April 23, 2018
For a long time, we’ve been kept in the dark when it comes to mainstream conversation, often starting scattered conversations across the board. Within pop culture, we have nuanced K-Pop fan clubs, while others join urban communities and swear loyalty to Hip Hop legends, and still others succumb to mainstream white-dominated tastes. The rest rebel in dark corners.
The problem with all of these varied tastes is that we have no common ground. We want an identity that belongs to us, but unfortunately we’ve been doing that by trying to find ourselves in others. We are so disconnected from one another that we ostracize our own community and fail to understand the common core experience of Asian Americans.
As people of Asian immigrant descent, our experience is neither Asian nor American. We exist in a very special diaspora that hasn’t been fully understood or sympathized with yet. “Crazy Rich Asians” may not be all-encompassing of the Asian American experience, but it’s a start to the conversation. It’s the first millennial film to feature an all Asian cast (before this, we lived in a time where the sight of caricature Asians seen in yellowface was appropriate) and therefore a natural reaction that our community wants it to be “right.”
Remember, though, that no first step taken is ever going to be perfect, and just because it’s unrepresentative of all Asians doesn’t mean it’s misrepresentative completely.
We can all find a piece of us in any one character — that’s the beauty of films, Asian or not. What the art also reveals to us is that we don’t need big screen media to help us form our own identities — that starts with us. The only real change comes from the inside (J. Cole fans understand me).
Whatever clashing opinions there may be on the release of this film, we are all finally having a conversation together — and that’s a beautiful thing.
About the Author: Anna Zhang is a writer, teacher, and first generation Fuzhounese American from Brooklyn, New York. She explores blueprints of womanhood, music, and culture through honest and bored storytelling. This article was originally featured on Medium and was republished with permission.
Featured Image via FaceBook / Crazy Rich Asians: The Movie