If you’ve heard anything about Crazy Rich Asians, you’ve probably heard this: It’s apparently the first major American studio release featuring an East or Southeast Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club. Which came out in 1993. 1993! That’s 25 years ago! That’s insane!
Do I really need to go into why this is a bad thing? Much has already been made of Crazy Rich Asians’ No. 1 ranking at the box office this past weekend, but even if it hadn’t done nearly this well, can’t we agree that diversity in casting can only be good? It’s actually pretty meaningful to see people who look like you on a movie screen — especially when they aren’t reduced to caricatures, as so many Asian characters have been — and if you’re watching someone who doesn’t quite look like you, well, isn’t it more interesting than seeing the same old faces over and over?
Look, there are many arguments to be made in favor of this, but, to the movie itself, Crazy Rich Asians, is, honestly, a pretty standard romantic comedy. There’s a couple in love, they face some obstacles, things look bleak for a bit, then they overcome those obstacles, and, presumably, live happily ever after. It is a fair bit better than whatever your idea of a generic rom-com is: It’s funny, it’s charming, and it looks fantastic. And, it adds some really interesting layers by looking at a variety of cultural tensions — particularly the attitudes of traditional Chinese families toward less conventional Chinese-Americans, and definitely the attitudes of the hyper-rich toward the less wealthy.
And I guess if I had any problem with Crazy Rich Asians, it was that last part. I’m a little tired of stories about rich people. It’s just too easy. When your characters are super rich, they can do almost literally anything. Heck, even our super heroes are rich.
But, setting that aside, Crazy Rich Asians is plenty good fun, and we can hope it’s part of a trend that represents a shift in what, and who, we expect to see on screen.