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What “Crazy Rich Asians” Really Means


By Tiffany He, T/E Life Editor

By now “Crazy Rich Asians” has become a smashing hit, a massive Hollywood breakthrough. Based on the Kevin Kwan novel of the same name, it has become the most popular romantic comedy in three years, beating out Oscar Winning Silver Linings Playbook and dominating the box office for the past few weeks. With its success, much debate has arisen. Surprisingly, they are not about what it means to be crazy rich or Asian as the title suggests, but what it means to be an Asian-American. 

The film focuses on Rachel Chu, a game theory professor at NYU, who is set to be her boyfriend Nick’s plus one to his best friend’s wedding in the booming country of Singapore and is shocked to learn that Nick is from one of the wealthiest families in the entire country. Faced with fearsome adversaries like Nick’s disapproving mother Eleanor and jealous ex-girlfriends, Rachel finds that the only thing crazier than love might be family.

Within the first few scenes, I was won over by the charming plot, legendary cast, and slapstick humor. Not to mention, the fantastic soundtrack, including the beautiful Chinese cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow,” which is sure to shed some tears. After sitting through multiple shots of breathtaking landmarks, beautiful couture, and delicious food, I was tempted to immediately book a flight to Singapore to get a taste of that “Crazy Rich Asian” lifestyle. What’s not to like about a modern day Cinderella story set in a sparkling city of wealth?  

But behind the layers of cocktail dresses, glittering socialites, and hilarious Awkwafina one-liners hides an extremely relatable story for Asian-Americans. From the simplicity of making dumplings and playing mahjong in the afternoon to the crazy shenanigans of gossiping aunties and cousins, Asian-American audiences are able to finally see a part of themselves on the big screen. Even with the subtle uses of Chinese, Cantonese dialects, and a few Singlish “lah’s”, the actors are actually able to directly communicate to Asian viewers. At its core, Crazy Rich Asians isn’t about the cash or the luxury—it’s about unapologetically claiming your own identity, something everyone can appreciate.

With word of a possible sequel, I am excited to see what the fantastic cast may do next.

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