Why Chinese Audiences May Not Go Crazy for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is a hit, but its portrayal of Chinese culture may not resonate with audiences from the Chinese mainland.

a still from “Crazy Rich Asians”

After topping the U.S. box office for three consecutive weeks — including an eye-popping $35 million in its first five days in theaters — “Crazy Rich Asians” has become one of 2018’s breakout hits.

Adapted from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name, the movie — the first Hollywood studio production to feature an English-language, predominantly Asian cast since the immigrant-focused “The Joy Luck Club” a full 25 years ago — was praised in the U.S. for its stereotype-shattering depictions of Asians and Asian Americans. The movie centers around a young couple, Rachel Chu and Nick Young — played by Constance Wu and Henry Golding, respectively — who take a trip to Singapore to meet Nick’s family. Not long after they land, Rachel realizes that her boyfriend is the heir to an immense fortune and one of the most eligible bachelors on the island, but that his fiercely protective, imperious mother Eleanor — played by Michelle Yeoh — isn’t exactly thrilled with the woman her son is dating.

Yet despite its eccentric, mold-breaking characters and great on-location shots of Singapore, the movie still trades in some well-worn tropes. As I watched, I found myself wondering whether Asia had really escaped Hollywood’s exoticizing gaze, or if the filmmakers had just slapped a fresh cover onto the same old book.

My unease set in as Rachel and Nick arrive in Singapore. The dizzying scenes that follow — full of dazzling skyscrapers, delicious-looking street food, and ostentatious displays of extreme wealth — resemble a tourism commercial more than a real city. Although more flattering than the usual tired shots of a backward Orient frozen in time or of grungy cityscapes full of third-world sweatshops, the Singapore we get in “Crazy Rich Asians” is no more balanced or representative of life in modern Asia. Read the full article here.


This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.