How Crazy Rich Asians Washed Over A Country’s Culture

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“Crazy Rich Asians”, a movie with an all Asian cast,  was released in the United States this year. In case you haven’t heard of this movie it is a film adaptation of the best-selling novel written by Singaporean author Kevin Kwan. The plot is about an Asian-American woman’s introduction to her Singaporean boyfriend’s family in Singapore and their relationship. The book was written to challenge ideas about Asian stereotypes by greatly exaggerating the wealthy background stereotype of the main character. The idea to challenge biased perceptions of Asians and reform them to better suit the progressiveness of today’s society is commendable. However, the film itself has done a great injustice not just to Singaporeans through misrepresentation of our culture, but also by effectively generalizing Asia to a single stereotype.

 

Even though the film was indeed filmed in Singapore, the main cast is composed of actors of British, American, Japanese, Argentinian, Chinese, and Malaysian descent, but none are of Singaporean descent. In addition, the cast uses mainly American English or British English accents. In Singapore, every Singaporean learns to speak English for communication purposes and either Mandarin, Malay or Tamil based on their race. This serves as a daily reminder that Singapore is a country made up of migrants, much like the United States. But, Singaporeans do speak Singlish, which is a pidgin English-based language that uses a mix of English words, Mandarin, Malay, and several Chinese dialects, like Hokkien, in a unique sentence construction that is local to Singapore. Even though these aspects are one of the most easily identifiable markers of Singapore’s culture, the producers of the movie proceeded to censor this as they felt that Western audiences would be unable to grasp the natural way Singaporeans speak.

 

Moreover, the movie is composed entirely of actors who are “East Asian looking” and failed to take into account the existence of other ethnicities like the Malay, Indian, and Eurasian ethnic groups in Singapore. While it should be understood that the author, Kevin Kwan, intended this to show that most of the wealthy elite in Singapore are Singaporean Chinese, it was deemed unacceptable by a significant number of Singaporeans, including a political scientist at the National University of Singapore who said, “The film represents the worst of Singapore. Erases minorities. Erases the poor and marginalized. All you get are rich, privileged ethnic Chinese”, to be culturally and racially insensitive. There are even reports of Mainland Chinese audiences refusing to view the movie for the same reasons.

 

As a true-born Singaporean who grew up and lived for most of my life in a multi-ethnic society that embraced the differences of every person, it is disappointing to see that my culture’s uniqueness has been glossed over so easily. Instead of persuading others to see my country through the lens of a Singaporean, the producers decided to pervert the richness of a culture just so that movie-goers can see it easily through their own lens. Even though many Asians in Western countries may see this as championing their representation, I view this as an attempt to distort my people’s identity. As such, I hope to persuade you to not view this film or promote it on the grounds of ‘cultural distortion’.

 

If you would like, you may take a look at the following links below to have a better understanding of why Crazy Rich Asians failed in Asian representation.

 

Crazy Rich Asians Movie is a win for Asian-Americans. But it gets Singapore wrong

Political Scientist: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ represents ‘the worst of Singapore’

Crazy Rich Asians: The film burdened with ‘crazy’ Asian expectations

Singaporean ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ cast members wanted to speak more Singlish