‘Asian’ movie a hit - except with the Asians
Singaporeans take issue with how they have been portrayed in the movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’
Hailed as a watershed moment for Asian American representation in Hollywood, the new romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians has been given a less enthusiastic reception in Singapore, the setting of the colourful tale of glamour and excess.
As the first Hollywood movie to feature an all-East Asian cast in 25 years, it has been widely touted as a breakthrough for Asian Americans who have long been short-changed on US screen time. The film has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where critics praise it for having “a terrific cast and a surfeit of visual razzle dazzle”. Jon Chu, the director, has described his creation as “more than just a movie, it’s a movement”.But in Singapore, where the movie will premiere on Wednesday, locals are taking issue with how their tiny south-east Asian city-state has been portrayed. They question why it glaringly fails to feature the local “Singlish” patois and does not reflect Singapore’s diversity, excluding any meaningful representation of its large population of non-Chinese minorities. Their concerns were not eased by an embarrassing red carpet malfunction when the film opened in Los Angeles on Aug 7. As the film’s stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh smiled and posed, the Singapore Tourism Board’s logo on the backdrop panel read “Sincapore: Passion Made Poss ble”, instead of “Singapore: Passion Made Possible”. The organisers said that the lettering had melted in the “extreme heat.” However, more serious concerns have been raised that while the movie does offer more representation for Asians in the United States, that it does not take care to depict Singapore in the same representative way.Based on a novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, a Singaporean author, the narrative follows a Chinese American economics professor who flies to Singapore to attend a wedding with her boyfriend, only to find out that her partner comes from one of the city state’s richest families. When the trailer was released Singaporeans were dismayed at the film’s lack of Singlish, the local patois.
“When we watch American movies, I know what they sound like in America ... But I just wish that somebody else watching us somewhere else would know our lingo and our slang words as well,” Selena Tan, an actress, told Yahoo! News.The focus on Singapore’s Chinese population to the exclusion of its minorities also prompted criticism. “In its representation of Singapore, I definitely had to constantly remind myself of the context in which this film was made – for Asian Americans in America looking onto Singapore,” said Shrey Bhargava, another Singaporean actor.
“I did yearn to see more minority Singaporeans in the film and Singapore’s multicultural diversity to be celebrated, especially given that [Crazy Rich Asians] was marketed as a win for representation.”Yet despite the film’s flaws, tourism chiefs are less prone to critique, embracing the rare focus on Singapore in such a high profile movie.
“All in all, this is a win for Singapore and can help further profile Singapore’s home-grown talents,” said Lynette Pang, a senior executive at Singapore Tourism.
– © The Sunday Telegraph