Why ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Still Has One Crazy Problem

Recently, we told you about an article on The Cut, which dealt with representation in the fashion and creative world when it came to inclusion. Now, with the movie and book Crazy Rich Asians out on display, others are realizing just how much is still lacking in today’s world of different culture, backgrounds, and lifestyles. The Asian-American book features Rachel Chu, who is learning that her rich boyfriend’s family doesn’t approve of her and thinks she is a gold-digger. But as Refinery 29’s latest article states, it was “something much more hard-boiled: frank discussions of the particularly uncomfortable double-standards some Asian-American men place on Asian-American women, the racism of East Asians towards Southeast Asians, and the hierarchy of the Chinese diaspora.”

Refinery 29 editor, Connie Wang, went on to explain:

“When it was announced that the first novel (Crazy Rich Asians) in the series was being turned into a proper Hollywood movie, complete with an American marketing team, starring an American cast, and made for an American audience, I felt like I should be thrilled. But I was mostly suspicious. After all, the story was not really about Asian-Americans, despite its cast. I was worried that a story about one specific group of Chinese people who have nothing to do with America would be sold as an accomplishment that all Asian-Americans could hang their hats on.”

And just like she said, that is what happened. Jon M. Chu is the director who has helped in movies like G.I. Joe Retaliation and Step Up. This time around, he had a connection with the movie. “To get people to pay $20 to leave their homes, pay another $20 for food and parking, then to go into the dark to watch our story…that’s a huge thing,” he explained. “That means we’re worth the effort.”

For the first time in a long time, Crazy Rich Asians is a movie that featured an all Asian-American cast. But will it continue? Editor Connie Wang states that there haven’t been enough stories about Asian-American experiences. And she has a valid point. As she mentions, it is sad that we are all behaving like this won’t ever happen again. A time that voices “underrepresentation, misrepresentation, and whitewashing.”

Connie makes a completely fair argument in her article stating that “ultimately, this movie is about a woman who’s not Asian enough. But Asian-Americans’ biggest issue is being seen as American enough, which is why a movie designed for Asian-Americans can never live up to the expectations placed on it.”

As she puts it, Crazy Rich Asians is a “movie for Asians in American, not Asian-Americans in Asia.” This is one story. This isn’t the representation of all Asian-Americans. Did you know that the book isn’t even available in any Chinese languages? The movie isn’t showing in the mainland of China. The author had no issues being blunt to whom the audience was in mind for. North Americans. For that reason, why are we acting like this is one huge step? One step,surely.

“This movie shows that there’s an audience for Asian-American movies,” Chu told Connie. “This movie will open the crack. And if [Asian-Americans] support it, more movies will get green-lit. Those will be the movies that are going to change everything. This movie shouldn’t and isn’t supposed to be the end-all, be-all Asian-American movie.”

But shouldn’t there be more attention to what is really going on in the world? For example, famous brands like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing are still extremely insensitive. Each brand features outfits that they claim are “Oriental” due to flower patterns and kimono styles. For that reason, the fashion and creative world are still full of things like this. Things that should not be an issue in today’s world, but are.

I reached out to the very person who showed me what these fashion brands were doing and got her opinion.

“The term ‘Oriental’ is significantly outdated and inappropriate. It is laughable that an internationally popular clothing website (Pretty Little Thing) does this. The brand is all over social media, worn by countless influencers, yet uses the term to describe all of their Asian inspired clothing,” stated Therese Holland, who is an Asian Caucasian American.

“It is not about political correctness or hurting someone’s feelings. The term is a negative connotation. It comes from a period in time where Asians were seen as subordinate. The term is derogatory and I challenge their PR/Marketing team to change the message their sending to their consumers. I think Chrissy Teigen said it best, ‘…I’m not a rug.'”

But Therese has a very valid statement when it comes to the movie. “The presence that Asians are making in pop culture today are leaps from the 90’s. The popularity of Crazy Rich Asians the first weekend it came out, makes me feel proud that I am being represented.”

And like many have stated before, it is a time at least where there is representation. There is acknowledgment.

“I admire Constance Wu for activism in the Asian community, especially among Hollywood,” added Holland, and rightfully so.

Connie ended her article in the best possible way ever.

“We are different. And I hope that we can tell the difference.”

And that is exactly the point of WhatRUWearing’s #ReflectMeLike campaign. As a creative-minded company that voices our opinions, we demand inclusion in the creative and fashion world. Our team of Farissa Knox, Mary Melnikov, Staci Wuokko, Rashima Sampson and Gabriela Irizarry, are all women of different backgrounds.

We created #ReflectMeLike, which pledges to highlight diversity and acknowledges our responsibility as content creators to be inclusive.

As a result of everything, we brought the campaign to life. We highlighted some of the most iconic magazines and paid homage to the influential female pop culture superstars who have graced the covers. Founder and CEO, Farissa Knox explained, “It is the beginning of a new era. Everyone should see reflections of themselves in the art, content, and entertainment we, as the media, produce.”

“(#)ReflectMeLike means we, as content consumers, won’t let other people show us our reflection from their perspective. Our ultimate goal is to create, produce and offer content that everyone can see themselves in.”

The event featured the women of WhatRUWearing in a museum-like, chic showcase at the company’s headquarters. Each attraction featured an employee on a cover of a magazine, recreating the most iconic magazine covers from some of the biggest female celebrities in the world. Additionally, the original magazines were also on display.

You can see how the event went down and the final images by clicking here. Together, we can all take a step in the right direction. Don’t forget to tell us how you want to be reflected in the fashion and creative world by using #ReflectMeLike.

By Staci Wuokko