The Yellow Representation

“Look at the stars. Look at how they shine for you. And everything that you do. Yeah they were all yellow.” — Yellow by Coldplay

A parishioner flagged me down on a Sunday morning.
I thought maybe she had something of importance to ask me.
Have you guys seen the new Asian movie? she asked.
The movie in question was Crazy Rich Asians. 

Had it been any other topic, I might’ve showed my irritation at the question.
But I didn’t. And I wasn’t irritated (it was — rather– funny). Because I was (am) so damned proud of the movie simply existing.
“We have seen it. My wife has seen it twice already.”

And yes, you betcha we saw it.
And yes, you betcha we will get the DVD or Digital copy of the movie.
Even if the movie was getting 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, we would’ve still gone to see the movie. (I have a personal rule that I don’t go see a movie if it’s under 75% because movies are expensive, yo.) I was gonna support the hell out of this movie. As I’m writing this, my brother and his wife are planning to go see the movie again tomorrow.

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s actually a good movie. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it — but it may be for other reasons, which I’ll talk about in a bit. I mean, if this was just a normal Rom-Com would I like it as much? I guess I’ll never know. And I don’t care.

There were a few times where I almost cried during the movie.
But it wasn’t necessarily plot related. It was what I was seeing on screen. Rather who I was seeing on the screen.

I don’t know much more I can emphasize this.

Growing up, the only people I saw on TV/movies that looked me were either comedic reliefs or martial artists.
We were either asexual nerds or we knew kung fu. At least when it came to guys. Our women were portrayed as sex objects, something (else) for white men to conquer.

Talk to Asian males who grew up in the 90’s and ask them how white girls treated them.
We weren’t sexy; desirable; handsome — we could do your homework though.

That’s what made Glenn (Steve Yuen) from The Walking Dead a hero to many of us: he ended up with the white girl! A white girl found him attractive; worth loving.
I know that’s rather tongue-in-cheek, but I can’t think of an Asian character on American TV that showed pre-The Walking Dead so much complexity and depth and Glenn didn’t know martial arts. 

Compared that to how Han Lee (from 2 Broke Girls) was portrayed:

Hey, did you know there are quite a few of us who speak English without any sort of Asian accent?
You don’t have to add in the accent to make us look “foreign” — our face does that for us.
You don’t have to go for the cheap laugh by exposing how difficult it is to assimilate and adapt to a new country and learn a new language.

There were a couple of scenes that particularly got me in Crazy Rich Asians (POSSIBLE SPOILERS):

The first is the scene where Nick Young walks out to greet Rachel.
First off, it helps that Henry Golding is a handsome dude.
But he was shot in a way to make him look cool; handsome; sexy; desirable.
Tell me the last time you’ve seen an Asian male portrayed that way in non-Asian media.
He was the focal point of that scene — not for comic relief or for an intricate martial arts choreography — but for being the most eligible bachelor in Singapore in American media. 

The best thing about this movie was that it was people doing normal people things — er.. crazy rich people doing crazy rich people things.
Just happened that the entire cast was Asian. (And thank God it stayed that way. Apparently, producers wanted to cast a white actress for Rachel’s character. I’m sure Scarlett Johansson’s agent would’ve been on top of that. Or maybe Emma Stone’s– who infamously portrayed a character with the last name Ng.)

The movie could’ve been all white casts that takes place in Greenwich, Connecticut and the plot could still be the same.

The men weren’t made asexual.
The women weren’t overly sexualized.
No one needed to know martial arts to justify their existence.
They were presented as (albeit crazy and rich) people — just that they all had yellow skin.

Which brings me to the second scene: It was more the soundtrack than the scene in of itself.
The song started playing and I was like — I know that song. What song is that?
It was a cover of Yellow only sang in Mandarin.

I couldn’t help but think what a great touch that was considering “yellow” is how we’re identified when it comes to skin color.

When I went home, I read that the director sent a letter to the members of Coldplay to explain why he so wanted their song in the movie.

All this to say, it was awesome seeing such a movie and see that’s kicking ass in the box office.
It’s nice to have our people portrayed as more than one-dimensional.
That there are those of us (and I’m just sticking to the male perspective) who are a Data; a Short Round; a Long Duk Dong; a Jet Li; a Jackie Chan; a Bruce Lee; and a Glenn Rhee; a Nick Young; a Colin Khoo…

Go watch the movie if you haven’t yet.
And by the way, shout out to the strong Asian women in the movie:
From Constance Wu’s Rachel Chu to Gemma Chan’s Astrid Teo to Michelle Yeoh’s Eleanor Young to Awkafina’s Peik Lin Goh.

And go read the books, too.



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