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Is Crazy Rich Asians Helping Address Issues Surrounding Asian Representation in Hollywood?

Crazy Rich Asians, based on Kevin Kwan’s book, appears to be a summer blockbuster hit.

The story focuses on Rachel Chu, an Asian-American professor who attends a wedding in Singapore with her boyfriend. There, Rachel discovers that her boyfriend has been hiding a secret from her. Her boyfriend, Nick Young, as she discovers comes from one of the richest families in Asia. Soon Rachel is thrust into the social games of Singapore’s ridiculously wealthy elite.

The film achieved major attention since it is the first to be produced by a major Hollywood studio featuring an Asian majority cast in over twenty years.

When it comes to Asian representation in the West, the amount of roles available to actors are often limited, often falling into offensive stereotypes.

For instance, there continues to be a lack of prominent Asian male sex symbol on the silver screen. Asian men are rarely seen in romantic leading roles like Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) in Crazy Rich Asians.

Though lack of Asian representation is a problem in general, the issue is also very gendered.

Within many movies, Asian male characters are often depicted as unappealing compared to white, male counterparts. One example being the cringe-worthy comic relief, i.e. Sixteen Candles’ infamous character, Long Duk Dong.

Unlike Asian women, who are often fetishized, represented as “sexually docile”, Asian men seem to face the problem of “desexualization.”

As opposed to Asian women, Asian men seem to be rarely considered viable sexual and/or romantic partners.In one episode of the popular web series, Yappie (a word coined as a conjoined term for “Asian yuppie”) produced by Wong Fu productions, the characters discuss intricacies of interracial dating, quoting,

“Look at movies, you always see Asian girls with like a bunch of different types of guys. But you never see Asian guys with anyone.”

Jake Choi, a Korean-American actor, has discussed the challenges faced by Asian male actors in finding roles onscreen. In an interview with Salon, Choi expressed how “Asian men in media are so desexualized and emasculated.”

He also pointed out how in Hollywood Asian men are barely given leading roles, much less love interests in major films.

His statement is compounded by the fact that John Cho, a prominent Korean-American actor, is the first Asian leading actor to headline a mainstream American thriller film.

When asked how difficult it would be to land a leading role as an Asian male actor, Jake Choi responded,

“There’s probably a bigger chance of me winning the lottery than getting a lead male role in a big budget feature.”

Crazy Rich Asians is now opening major conversations surrounding racial casting in Hollywood. As of now America faces a severe situation when it comes to representation of racial minorities on the big screen. This becomes a problem we need to analyze and address within the public sphere.

Asian men deserve the chance to be represented on film in more roles, including romantic leads, without the burden of racism.

By: Michele Kirichanskaya

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