Asian Men Are Still Taking “Ls” in Crazy Rich Asians

(Minor spoilers ahead).

I want to preface this negative review with some positivity.

Crazy Rich Asians is a great movie for the Asian community at large. Overall it’s a step forward for Asian American representation in Hollywood, and its success should lead to more movies like it being made. These points should not be taken lightly.

However, Asian guys still aren’t getting much love.

It’s been pointed out many times, the lead actor is half-white on his dad’s side. His name is Henry Golding.

Henry Golding

Yes, other news sources have commented too…

And I can’t believe the outrage isn’t more so. Talking to a few Asian people in the film industry, most are blindly okay with the main guy (who’s Chinese – Singaporean) to be played by a half-British actor who barely looks Asian.

It’s made me realize that Asian men are in a worse place than I even thought, as we’re blindly okay with being whitewashed under the guise that this dude (who looks nothing like the average Asian) will help our representation.

Now you might ask, why does this even matter? At least he’s half-Asian right?

Well subconsciously, it puts forth the message that there is not a single full Asian male in the world who was good enough to portray a lead in a Hollywood movie. They did a whole world-wide casting, and the best they could come up with was this dude, a half-Asian.

The problem is that we all know most Asian men don’t really look like Henry Golding. He’s not a feasible role model.

To make matters worse, Golding’s character, Nick, is given almost no character development throughout the movie. He’s he’s portrayed as an oblivious “hunk” who doesn’t even have the decency to prepare his poor girlfriend for the onslaught that is meeting his super-rich parents.

I would’ve liked to see some edge in his character. Even in one scene where a guy blatantly insults his girlfriend, he doesn’t really do anything about it.

In addition, all the full Asian men in the movie were neutral or excessively feminine. There’s a guy with a six-pack, but even he ends up negatively portrayed by the end of the movie.

Even the worst Asian actor of all time, Ken Jeong, is in the movie (Jesus!). This is the guy who set Asian men back 10 decades with his role in The Hangover.

The problem is…

In a movie that was supposed to be the saving face for Asian representation, the message that was loud and clear was that full Asian men can’t be leading actors unless they’re “mixed” with White blood.

But it also sets a bad precedent.

Jon Chu could have made a statement. He could have stood up for the whitewashing of Asian male characters and he could have helped Asian men lose their perception problem in the USA. Instead he just said, “eh… well this half-Asian guy who barely looks Asian is good enough.”

So if one of the biggest Asian American directors thinks it’s okay for the Asian male lead to be half-Asian, how is this going to affect other filmmakers who don’t even care about Asian American representation?

It hurts me to say this.

Because on one hand, I love Jon M Chu for the extra representation he’s given to Asians (previous version of this article we mistakenly credited him for casting Han in Fast & Furious, but that was actually Justin Lin).

On the other hand, this role could have been a starring vehicle for a male who is full Asian, who could have represented Asian men on the big screen.

Instead people are thinking, they couldn’t even find a single full Asian male to play a lead in a movie with an ALL Asian cast.

That’s the narrative that’s going to be out there, whether Jon M Chu wanted it or not.

Again, I’m disappointed, but still optimistic.

I believe that with Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood will see that Asians can star in and lead movies. And in fact with the viral help of the Asian community, many will realize that Asian Americans are dying to see more representation. Overall, I feel like it’s a positive step for Asians in general, but it could’ve been a much bigger boon, especially for Asian men.

  • les katz

    On the one hand I agree with you. I did think it was a great movie. Honestly, I think most half Asians identify more with the Asian half. I am Hapa but I always just refer myself as Taiwanese. I hardly ever say I’m half. I am proud that this film does show Asian men as masculine and desirable to Asian women. Which you never see.

  • Edward Beadle

    I thought the Asian men were more for background to a degree. No disrespect intended. It seems the movie was more about the women, particularly the dynamic between the girlfriend, the mother, grandmother, and ex-girlfriend of the male lead. The women were, evidently, the main crux of the movie. The male seemed seemed like eye candy for the ladies.

  • Min Cheng

    I respectfully disagree with your points as they are ill considered and lack forethought.
    Henry Golding is a ‘hapa’ but does that disqualify his Asian membership card? do all half Asian men and women everywhere lose being able to call themselves Asian because of a non-Asian parent? I would ask that whoever wrote this editorial please consider that this is a time where the Asian community should be even more united, let us not be divisive. He’s Asian, he claims it, people see it, and we should support it.

    The Blacks fight among each other and tear each other down when they see one black person with lighter skin tone or white attributes, succeed over those with darker skin tones or traditional African attributes. In-fighting within a cultural group never helped anyone but those seeking to divide and conquer.

    You state, “The problem is that we all know Asian men don’t really look like Henry Golding. As Asian guys we’re painfully aware that we’ll never be “hapa.” Well, how about worrying less about not being mixed with white blood and worry more about lifting some weights, speaking to women with more confidence. Perhaps some better clothing might help with the Hatorade you got in your hands.

    As far as character development goes, yeah, you’re right the Nick character doesn’t go through a lot of growth in the movie. But you know what, he doesn’t in the book either. And if you read the book you could see that the content was written for the female demographic. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen a Rom-Com before but in these types of movies the story teller is talking to the women in the audience (primarily). Why cant we just celebrate the fact that Ryan Gosling or Matt Damon didn’t have to come in a save the day and win the girl. That alone is a
    step in the right direction.

    I agree with you on the Ken Jeong commentary, I hate his introduction and part in The Hangover movies. He did the Asian community a disservice. However, I do think he had some redemptive moments that help in the movie.

    Regarding the idea that the full Asian men in the movie were neutral or excessively feminine, I would disagree again. They made it a point to show as many men with muscular bodies as they could, watch it again and then tell me how many men had to show off their bodies versus how many women had to show off their bodies. It’s also monumental that Asian women werent displayed as docile sexpots, but as strong and smart complex women.

    Regarding that one dude being a “bitch” by the end of the movie, again that scene was for Gemma Chan and all the women in the audience relating and growing stronger through this adversity. It’s a women’s movie.

    I find it funny that you praised the role of Han from the Fast and the Furious movies even though that character didn’t have much character growth and was only a supporting character. Yet Henry Golding has committed a sin to you by having a white parent.

    I also find it funny that Amped Asia, an online magazine that centers around hyper sexualizing Asian women can’t get behind supporting a brotha’ (I’m assuming you’re Asian, kinda doubting that right now). How about helping the cause instead of tearing down people in the front lines?

    • AmpedAsia.com

      You’re not getting it. This isn’t excluding hapas from being Asian. This article is saying the opposite, that Asian men can’t be considered good looking unless they’re hapa. Two different things.

      Yes we’re all Asian, and guess what we have our own opinions. Just because yours is in support doesn’t mean there can’t be dissenting dialogue.

  • nuggedout

    Jon M. Chu never had any part in making the Fast & Furious movies. That’s Justin Lin.

    • AmpedAsia.com

      Noted and edited.