It’s been some time since I’ve written about Crazy Rich Asians and how enamored I was with – not Nicholas Young (well, maybe a little bit) – the idea of relating a little too much to the heroine of a novel. Last time I ventured into this territory, I reflected on the pride I felt after watching the movies.
Surprisingly, I was met with a lot of criticism. Hordes of immigrant Asians online battered my words with comments like –
“If you relate to anything in Crazy Rich Asians, that must mean you’re rich and privileged.”Said 98% of the comments I attempted to read on NextShark before turning away.
The funny part behind this assumption is that I initially thought I would be met with similar thoughts to mine because, after all, these were supposedly my peers, folks cut from the same cloth. I was brutally reminded that there really is a difference between first generation Asians – or as Kevin Kwon reminded me, ABCs – and the Asian immigrants. I did not get the full fury of blind bullying over something someone else did not understand. I woke up in a Long Island suburb, rode the bus with Black, Latino, and white children, and at the end of the day, I sat comfortably listening to my family speaking to each other in Tagalog as someone cooked their mother’s version of a traditional Filipino dish.
I had my two worlds. I lived the life of an American, speaking English as a first language, and I lived the life of an immigrant family’s child. In reality, this is no longer the melting of two cultures; this is a culture of its own.
A week after I watched the movie, I impulse purchased all three novels in the series, but I never had the energy to sit down and read any of them. I had to admit, there was an insane amount of information in the books akin to reading Bella’s endless inner monologue in Twilight. This made it difficult to focus, and the changes made for the movie instilled a lot of confidence over the adaptation of the second book China Rich Girlfriend.
After finally completing the novel, I realized this idea of a cultural divide was pushed far more aggressively than it was in the movie. The words thought and exchanged over the distaste of American-born versus Overseas versus Mainland Chinese people were harsh but all too real. I can recall my own time being in the Philippines. People wouldn’t speak to me, but they would stare. I was two shades paler than everyone else, so they either assumed I was full Chinese or half white. Strangers could not accept that I was mixed Filipino Chinese. There had to be something else in me. Nothing else could explain it.
As I grew older and met more immigrants, I learned quite harshly how odd the Asian American identity is to foreigners. They don’t understand how Americans can be racist to us because to foreigners, we are not Asian. We’re American. However, to Americans, we’re Asian Americans. There will always be a clear divide among us that we cannot avoid.
The biggest takeaway from Rachel Chu’s time in Singapore is that – I take pride in who I am and what I am, not in what either of my worlds expects me to me.
That being said – there was a lot that was improved between the novel and the movie. After skimming the reviews on GoodReads, I realized that a lot of the charm came from knowing all this information, while hosted in a fictional scenario, was absolutely true. The insanely affluent Asians definitely existed, and the average audience would thing it just had to be made-up. While I can’t say that reading the book made me enjoy the movie more, I do have more of an appreciation over how the movie ended. I felt more confidence in my favorite heroine than ever before.
Further behind the scenes, learning that my second favorite character Astrid Leong was based on Filipino actress/philanthropist/artist Heart Evangelista elevated my pride even more.