I don’t know if it’s like this anywhere else, but on Long Island – well, white, middle-class suburban Long Island – there’s an entire culture surrounding the debate of whether to send your child to a Catholic high school, or public high school.
The summer before eighth grade, my mother enrolled me in a Catholic High School Entrance Examination prep course at Chaminade High School. She then purchased an Anne Geddes wall calendar, which she used to keep track of the open houses of various Catholic high schools on The Island. I had my heart set on one in particular – Holy Trinity.
Trinity had a reputation for producing world-class performers. I was enrolled in a summer theater program, and took an instant liking to improv. While writing had always come naturally, there was something about being on stage that made me feel at home. I don’t remember the exact conversation Mom and I had, but by the end of it, I understood one thing: there were no roles for Asian women in Hollywood.
Because of Crazy Rich Asians, that is no longer true.
In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more seen than I did watching Rachel Chu’s mother explain that despite Rachel’s face being Chinese, and Rachel being able to speak Chinese, in her head and in her heart she is different.
There were points throughout the movie where I felt like crying, where I wanted to stand up and applaud, where I caught the drift. But, throughout the entirety of the film, I felt pride. Pride and hope for all the Asian girls out there who don’t have to feel like there’s no place for them in Hollywood, the board room, the world. Because things are changing.
Rachel Chu is told that despite being Asian, she is the wrong type of Asian. She experiences alienation within her own racial community, and this has been my struggle for years. Ever since I was young, the Asian people I met (and my, they were few) were often first-gen. When I was eleven, my first Asian friend, Youri, laughed when I said I was Korean. She said, “You’re not Korean – you’re a Twinkie.”
“A Twinkie – yellow on the outside, white on the inside. You’re not really Korean.”
But I was Korean. Not in the sense of keeping my last name of Park or knowing how to cook kimchi, but I was Korean to the people around me. To the strangers who assume I cannot speak English upon our first meeting, to children who think I know karate, to white men who picture me in tartan miniskirts and pig tails.
I am Asian, but the Asian community does not see me as one of their own. I am American, but when I think of what an American looks like, I can’t help but picture someone with skin paler than mine.
Crazy Rich Asians might not have you leaving the theater questioning how you see or interact with Asian people. A lot of people might say, “Lauren, it’s just a rom-com – it’s not that big a deal. The movie isn’t even deep or intellectual. It doesn’t even go into politics.”
But these people are wrong. Crazy Rich Asians isn’t just a movie, it’s a movement.
Laurie Loewenstein says
My spirits lift reading this as, hopefully, the door opens a bit wider.
I’m hoping it blows them wide open!