What does ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ say about race in the US?
Published: Aug 20, 2018 09:18 PM

The romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians is being hailed as a watershed moment for Asian representation in Hollywood. The groundbreaking nature of the rom-com is pretty clear: It is the first contemporary English-language Hollywood movie since The Joy Luck Club 25 years ago to feature an all-Asian cast. As Asian characters are usually played by white people in Hollywood, the release of an all-Asian blockbuster feels like an antidote to the whitewashing for which the industry is notorious.

Hollywood has long been criticized for its discrimination against Asian actors and actresses.

According to an Annenberg study of the top 100 films of 2017, only 4.8 percent of movies featured a character of Asian descent with a speaking role. The all-Asian cast of the Crazy Rich Asians is mainly driven by market demand. The growing influence of the Asian movie market on Hollywood in recent years has led to the increasing number of Asian faces in Hollywood casting.

Eyeing the China market, Disney has picked Chinese actor Liu Yifei to play Mulan in the adaptation of the 1998 cartoon which told the tale of Hua Mulan, a legendary female warrior. Other major characters in the film will also be played by Asian actors and actresses. These trends are welcoming and will increase Asian representation in Hollywood. But it's too early to say whether Hollywood will end its discrimination against Asian actors and actresses. After all, white people have long been favored out of proportion in the industry.

According to a 2017 Pew report, the US Asian population grew 72 percent between 2000 and 2015 - from 11.9 million to 20.4 million - the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group. Fast population growth suggests they will eventually be the nation's largest immigrant group. As their number grows, they have contributed greatly to the development of the US. But that doesn't mean that the culture of Asian-Americans can blend completely with white culture.

Looking at the bigger picture there has been a rise in populism in the US and white supremacism is intensifying in American society. White supremacists have become increasingly active in the context of American political and social changes, which has aroused concern among Asian-Americans. The re-emergence of white supremacism will not only affect US race relations, but also threaten national unity and cohesion, weakening the multicultural advantage of the US.

The significance of Crazy Rich Asians not only lies in that it has made history for Asian-American representation, but also in that it reminds the US to pay attention to cultural integration under globalization and harmony among different races.

blog comments powered by Disqus