Chinese moviegoers think “Crazy Rich Asians” is really not that Asian

Not Asian enough?
Not Asian enough?
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t even have a scheduled release in China, but more than a thousand Chinese moviegoers who have purportedly seen the movie are already chiming in—and many of them are not impressed.

Already, the film is stirring up plenty of attention in the country. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social network, posts with the hashtag #摘金奇缘 (the film’s Chinese title, which literally translates to “gold-picking unexpected romance”) have more than 8 million views (link in Chinese).

The film, which is set in Singapore and features an all-Asian cast, is undoubtedly a resounding victory for Asian representation in Hollywood, but some Chinese viewers feel it’s not all that representative—and are instead criticizing the movie for its stereotypes and for being more reflective of Asian-American culture.

As of today (Aug. 24), Douban, the Chinese version of IMDb, has amassed more than 1,600 reviews (link in Chinese) for Crazy Rich Asians—a relatively small number compared with blockbusters that have had official Chinese releases, like Dangal and Black Panther. The reviews are written in Chinese, likely by Chinese people who have watched the movie while traveling or living abroad, or by those who’ve obtained a pirated version.

Currently, Crazy Rich Asians has a rating of 7.7 out of 10—almost half of romantic and comedy movies rated by Douban users have a better score. Outside of China, it has a 93% review from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Crazy stereotypical,” wrote the user Drown (link in Chinese), whose Douban profile says she’s from Jiangsu province.

“My ABC friends all love it while my Chinese friends hate it,” wrote the reviewer Mr.Charles (link in Chinese), who lives in Washington DC. His shorthand “ABC” refers to American-born Chinese, who are culturally different from Chinese people. “What the film offers is only a glimpse of [Asian] culture,” he added.

One user criticized the film for its lack of authenticity, comparing it to Americanized Chinese food. “As a native Asian, I feel it’s like eating General Tso’s chicken in a Chinese restaurant” in a foreign country, chimed in someone in Los Angeles who goes by the moniker Durian Cake Brother (link in Chinese). “It looks like a film about Asians, but the spirit of it is American. The leading actress is an ABC. The story is about how Asians look in the eyes of the Americans.”

One major exception to the criticisms is the deftly choreographed and symbol-laden mahjong scene between the protagonist, Chinese-American economist Rachel Chu, and her boyfriend’s disapproving Singaporean mother, Eleanor Young. Many users (link in Chinese) appreciated the layers of meaning behind their seated positions, strategies, and tiles, incorporating Chinese numerology and association with compass directions. ”Lots of good details in the mahjong scene that show the battle between the mother-in-law and [prospective] daughter-in-law,” wrote Miss Music (link in Chinese) from Shanghai.

It remains unclear if the film will come to Chinese theaters. China has a quota of 34 Hollywood films most years, though it allowed 39 releases (link in Chinese) in 2017. Already, 30 Hollywood movies have made it to China, the world’s second-largest film market, this year.