I’ve just finished watching one of 2018’s most buzzed film Crazy Rich Asian, a Hollywood film that portrays the life of Asian millionaires. Adapted from a novel by Kevin Kwan with the same title, the film is about how Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American econ professor, struggles to adapt with the old-money-rich family of her boyfriend, Nick Young.
I’m not going to give you an in-depth review about the cinematographic aspects of the film, but instead I’ll share my opinion about it as a South East Asian girl—Indonesian to be precise. A little note for you who probably skipped geography class: Indonesia is that wide archipelago near Singapore and Malaysia, the two countries where Crazy Rich Asian was shot.
Living in Indonesia which is home to so many cultures and races makes it easy for me to understand to the characters of Crazy Rich Asian. Around 3% of Indonesian citizen is Chinese, and that makes me quite familiar to Chinese people and culture (I have friends who are Chinese too, and overall they’re amazing!). So, if I may speak something based on my experience, I would say that Crazy Rich Asian does give a pretty accurate picture of Chinese people in general: excellent, strict, and rich. Those I’ve personally met don’t seem that rich rich, but yeah, they’re rich (they’re great businessmen, of course y’all know!). And don’t get me start talking about their excellence! They’re so fine! Almost all Chinese people that I know personally are the best on the circle. They aim for the brightest star, they don’t take tolerable as a target. Just like the whole world know, Chinese people are the best of fighters.
Alright, now let’s dive deeper! Crazy Rich Asian revolves around Nick Young’s Chinese family. Before I continue, for you who haven’t watch the film, Nick Young is a NYU professor who hides his identity as the potential sole heir of his extended family business by living a modest life. Why would someone like him conceals his identity? I mean, isn’t it a major pleasure to have an unlimited access to wealth and fame? The answer will be subjective, but most of people would agree if the answer is a simple “Because he don’t want to be recognized and remembered that way”. Nick is that kind of person. He doesn’t want people to judge him for his family’s wealth and fame; he wants to be judged for being himself.
For the Young family is a top-notch Singaporean family whose business is all across Asia, living the expectations of the family elders is challenging. Every members are expected to maintain the family’s good rep and to pass on family traditions to the next generations. Children are prepared and shaped by their parents will so they’ll be fit enough to run the family business, or perhaps fit enough to dominate the world. Family business and wealth become that important to them because they perceive people with expensive net worth as a big yes whilst self-made people are perceived as a “meh, okay, but we don’t compare”. They’re also expected to keep their family lineage pure, Chinese only (Half-Bloods, Squibs, and Muggles are a definite no!). Those family expectations are what stand between Rachel and Nick’s family blessing.
Seeing how Hollywood depicts an Asian family’s life in this film reminds me of the Asian families I know, even mine. Although not all families are Chinese, at least we Asian share similar values and perspectives.
First, family first. Asian people has this tendency to put communal needs before individual needs.
Individuality and selfishness are not quite tolerable here. Subjectively speaking, I see this lesson as a quite good one. We want it or not, we live in a society, and people within a society will need one another sooner or later. Prioritizing communal needs seems like a good way to maintain the harmony of a society.
However, I don’t agree on Eleanor Young’s (Nick’s mom) on this. There’s a scene that goes this way.
Eleanor : You’re a foreigner. American – and all Americans think about is their own happiness.
Rachel : Don’t you want Nick to be happy?
Eleanor : It’s an illusion. We understand how to build things that last. Something you know nothing about.
Well, yeah, individualists value individual happiness above others’, but that doesn’t mean happy individuals couldn’t make things lasts! I mean, what’s the meaning of having everlasting things if those don’t make you happy? All those unnecessary family traditions.. what are those for if it brings family members together for nothing but sorrow?
Second, blood purity still matters for some family.
Since Indonesia (and South East Asia in general) was home to Hinduism, castes existed. Family reputations and lineage matters here. Having a royal married a peasant would be such a disgrace to the royal family, I don’t know why.
It is no longer that strict here nowadays, but the lessons are still passed on. Most Asian families require young adults to marry someone who is at least equal to them. The aspect being assessed might differ from one family to another, such as intelligence, wealth, fame, family history, and else; it depends on the value the family upholds. I personally can understand the reason because a life-partner is a serious matter and similarities might be the key to an everlasting relationship. However, I disagree to the lesson if those shallow aspects are the only things being accounted when parents decide the eligibility of their future son-in-law or daughter-in-law. I believe there are more to it to decide, such as kindness, politeness, life vision, integrity, etc.
Third, the last I’ll discuss, most children avoid becoming their parents and families when they grow up.
I don’t know whether this is just an Asian people thing or a global thing (since I recall a scene in The Breakfast Club mentions this as well), but this is a thing (why did I wrote so many things in this thing?).
In the film, Nick seems like he wants to break his family’s rules regarding to his freedom. He seems like he is not interested in what his parents have planned for him (running a family business). He seems like he is not interested in keeping the family blood pure. To make it simple, it seems like he doesn’t want to be like his family members.
I once discussed this with my mom, on “to learn how not to be like my parents”. I and my mom agreed that almost all children grow up with this little dream of not becoming like their parents. This dream might stem from bad parenting style which triggers children’s wish to eradicate some bad things parents do from life. And truthfully, I find this quite good. Wishing like that indicates that children (or people in general) are striving for the better instead of maintaining a mere tradition for fulfilling individual ego.
However, isn’t that ironic? How long will this lasts? Until when do children have to fight their innate tendency of imitating their parents’ and family’s behavior? Until when do children have to feel hatred for what they’re supposed to love the most?
Since I’ve left those rhetorical questions above, I’ll put this story of mine to an end. To wrap up, let’s just agree to take everyday life events as a lesson in the means of shaping ourselves into better individuals in the future! Crazy Rich Asian is a fresh air to the Hollywood filmography, I recommend you to watch it. And, oh, I’ll leave a Mayer masterpiece too in case you want to be more disturbed by the third discussion! Arrivederci!