Jon M. Chu’s groundbreaking film – Crazy Rich Asians – has become the most successful Hollywood studio romantic comedy in almost a decade. It finished with an estimated total of $117 million, which means it did better than Amy Schumer’s 2015, Trainwreck. What’s interesting about this is that romantic comedies are a bit of an endangered species, aren’t they? Especially on the big screen. Sure, they’re great to watch on Netflix, but they don’t do as well in the theatres. Case in point, a romantic comedy hasn’t earned that kind of money since The Proposal earned $164 million in North America back in 2009. Since its debut in mid-August, Crazy Rich Asians has continued to defy the overall comedy slump that has been gripping the U.S. box office for the past several years.
Why is this the case? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it seems to promote diversity. Something that we don’t see a lot of in Hollywood. The picture-perfect Chinese immigrant story also helps to boost confidence and even awaken Asian pride in some communities. But it doesn’t’ just do that. It also helps to counter stereotypical depictions of Asians. As I’ve said time and again, I think that the fact that we have stereotypical ideas about any race is kind of horrible – isn’t it?
Can people only relate to other people of their own race? I think that’s a bit stereotypical. I think that we all have this idea of what is a good movie, and for so long that’s been centered around a lot of white people. I don’t think I’m going too far by saying that. You might remember that the Oscars were boycotted a few years ago because they were too white. In fact, it has caused the Academy to really think about the types of awards they give out and to what types of films. The way that it’s structured now, only films with predominantly white people involved will get nominated, or even win.
Further to that, I think that we should also be cognizant of what we’re saying. A lot of actors of color get pigeon-holed into certain roles. If you’ve seen the show Silicon Valley, there’s this stereotype that Chinese men are seen as nerdy, non-assertive and socially awkward. While this might be true of some people, it’s not necessarily true of an entire ethnicity. And we shouldn’t think that way. We shouldn’t automatically assume that one particular race or ethnicity means that everyone in that group of people will be a particular way.
The one thing that this movie doesn’t do is dispel the stereotype that Asians have money and are materialistic. That’s what I dislike about it. In the movie, we see extravagant first-class flights, lavish banquet dishes, and a $40 million wedding. In most movies, we look past the cost of these kinds of things because it’s fictional. But in this movie, it demonstrates that money talks and not necessarily in a good way. Yes, the title of the movie does give away the fact that we’re talking about rich people, but I don’t think it helps to dispell some of the myths that westerners have around Asian culture.