Birth.Video.Death: Looking At Asian American Cinema

To understand why CRAZY RICH ASIANS is such an important landmark in Asian American cinema, we must first look at the history.

Crazy Rich Asians is coming soon. Get your tickets here!

You may have heard some buzz about how Crazy Rich Asians is a big deal for the Asian American community. And sure, to a certain extent, that's obvious. Think about how often you see Asian Americans portrayed at all in films and television. Then think about how often Asian Americans get starring roles in major theatrical releases. Then think again about how often Asian Americans comprise the majority or totality of the cast in one of those major Hollywood films, and don't worry if you are having trouble because the last time it happened was in 1993.

But the degree to which Asian American voices have been suppressed in cinema goes much deeper than that. In case you need a primer on where Asian American cinema has been in order to appreciate the significance of Crazy Rich Asians' role in providing representation in front of and behind the camera, we've whipped up a little something to get you up to speed.

This is by no means comprehensive, but the fact that the entirety of Asian American representation in Hollywood cinema can be compressed down to a seven-minute video is disheartening in its own right, especially considering that many of those minutes are spent recounting instances of white actors portraying Asian American characters, Asian American characters being whitewashed, or Asian American actors portraying stereotypical versions of their cultures of origin. However, when given the opportunity to thrive, Asian Americans have made seminal contributions reaching back to the silent era, from The Curse of Quon Gwon to the Oscar-nominated musical Flower Drum Song to the deservedly beloved The Joy Luck Club. Behind the camera, BMD-favorite Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame got his start making films like Better Luck Tomorrow, and performers like Mindy Kaling, Kumail Nanjiani, Dani Pudi, Dwayne Johnson, and Ali Wong have pushed Asian Americans into the highest echelons of Hollywood prominence.

Progress is slow, but Crazy Rich Asians represents a large step forward for Asian American representation in modern cinema, one that will hopefully open the doors for similar films in its wake that appeal first and foremost to this underserved community. We're looking forward to it, so keep an eye out for our review next week and maybe consider what the price of a movie ticket could mean to the future of Asian American film.

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