Crazy Rich Asians was absolutely fantastic. Fun, colourful, feel good – A treat for the eyes and ears.
I was grinning all the way through – until I came home and realized how confused I was about the coverage around this movie.
This film is supposedly the first all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club of 1993. But then there was commentary about how Singapore wasn’t represented properly and how Asians were reduced to two Asian identities (I’m assuming Chinese and Indian? Not sure in this regard).
What I know is that perhaps I am on a learning curve to accept the use of Asian as an identifier for myself as a South Asian woman.
I read a fascinating article by the New York Times that posited a sharp income gap between the wealthiest Asians and poorest – keeping in mind the many types of Asians in the United States.
It’s embarrassing and difficult for me to reconcile the fact that I have internalized that Asian means only a small part of Asia: namely the Chinese, Korean and Japanese parts. This must be a North American thing as I know in England and Pakistan at least (where my parents grew up) Asians include East, Southeast and South Asia.
But I can’t bring myself to make that grouping. (And I say this from diaspora perspective so bear with me).
There is a power dynamic associated with being from East Asia compared to South Asia. This is hardly a ladder of oppression but due to the Western country I have adopted, I have subconsciously adopted it’s indoctrinate inequalities as well. Even if it is directed towards myself unfortunately.
Income inequality itself is an indication of this disparity but so is the fact that the worst representation issue is that East Asians are made to be undesirable romantically to white audiences while South Asians are terror threats.
This is not discounting the struggles of East Asians. Or ignoring the differences in inequality between diaspora and Asians living in Asia. Or lumping all East Asians together.
This wonderfully fun movie makes it easy to overlook the shared immigrant experience that tie many Asians together. The struggles, the economic issues. The racism and injustices both groups face. The allied efforts of Asian groups across North America to uplift and support one another. To overcome standards imposed on us to be a ‘model’ group. To fight these harmful media representations.
But this does not negate the racism that people of colour harbour towards other people of colour. And of the ones this woman is trying to understand and deconstruct.
I, very simply, am working through when it is that I, as a person born on the continent of Asia, will feel as competent and opulent as Asia conjures.
When I will be able to comfortably think of myself as Asian without feeling like an imposter.
When being South Asian will be as identifying as my nationality rather than as a race separating East and South.
When that happens, I will be the first to own and join in the festivities of Crazy Rich Asians and the hopefully many movies after it that I can claim as telling my story.
In the meantime, I’ll be here loving the film as someone else’s story from afar.