Crazy Rich Asians film packed with stereotypes sparks hope for diversity breakthrough
It’s been 25 years since a major Hollywood production has had a predominantly Asian cast, but the dry spell is set to be broken with 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians — a much-anticipated romantic comedy packed with a feast of Asian stereotypes.
“When you grow up and everybody that you see on TV and on billboards, they all look like you, you’re accepted, your image is accepted, and you’re validated,” Melbourne actor Chris Pang — who is of Taiwanese-Chinese descent and one of the stars of Crazy Rich Asians — told the ABC.
Pang, who stars as billionaire Colin Khoo, says Crazy Rich Asians heralds a major breakthrough for Asians in western media.
The new film is a satirical depiction of outrageously wealthy Asian families, hailed by one character in the novel of the same name as “richer than God”.
It is the first Hollywood blockbuster to celebrate Asian representation to this extent on the big screen since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club.
Based on the book by Kevin Kwan, the movie follows the life of down-to-earth Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who travels to Singapore with her long-time boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) for his best friend’s wedding, only to discover Nick hails from one of Asia’s wealthiest families.
In Singapore, she meets Nick’s ultra-rich family and tries to find her place with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and, ultimately, Nick’s disapproving mother.
Pang plays the groom in what the upper echelon of society in the novel likens to Asia’s answer to the Royal Wedding.
I got down and into dark spots dealing with being a minority’
In contrast to his onscreen character who was born into the spotlight, Pang, 33, admitted he struggled to get to where he is today — not just because it was tough being an actor, but also due to his cultural background.
Frustrated by a lack of opportunities after landing his first principal role as Lee Takkam in the Australian film Tomorrow, When the War Began in 2010, Pang moved to Los Angeles in 2013.
But he is hopeful his role in Crazy Rich Asians, directed by Jon M Chu, promotes diversity and positive change.
Australian-Filipino actor Alfred Nicdao, best known for his work on Blue Heelers, and who starred alongside Pang in Tomorrow, When The War Began, also feels the lack of Asian representation needs to change.
“You look around and there are so many people from different backgrounds, but you watch Neighbours and Home and Away now and nothing,” he said.