Pulling in a domestic total of $136 million, Crazy Rich Asians became the most successful rom-com at the box office in 9 years. The film has received love and praise from the public, particularly for its all-Asian cast, the first to appear since ‘The Joy Luck Club’ in 1993. However, the film may not be as successful in China.
It is unlikely that Chinese audiences will experience the same emotional impact that Crazy Rich Asians had on Asian Americans. Experiences and stories of Asian Americans are extremely different from those of mainland China, so the movies that pull the heartstrings of one group often will not affect the other.
The movie resonated with Asian Americans because it was the first time many of them saw people who looked like them on screen as main roles, full dimensional characters, instead of just a stereotypical best friend or manicurist. This was a triumph for the Asian American community after years of underrepresentation and continuous white-washing of Asian films in Hollywood. People in mainland China, on the other hand, are unfamiliar with this struggle for representation in media. The Han Chinese are the majority, making up 91% of the population, so film representation isn’t a problem at all, as they constantly see Chinese stars in movies.
Additionally, the film might not even be released in China. The application for official release in China is “still ongoing”, said John Pennotti, one of the film’s producers. China allows only 34 foreign films per year. So far, 30 of these films have been granted revenue-sharing status, and there are still many highly anticipated movies to come. Chinese officials are quite strict with what messages are sent in the media, and the extravagant spending and economic disparity featured in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ does not match up well with China’s socialist values. Marxism and Communism are important ideologies of China, and one of the core socialist values is equality.
The few Chinese who have had the chance of seeing ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ outside of the country have not been as impressed by the movie as audiences in America. The movie earned a rating of 7 out of 10 stars on Duoban (a Chinese website which operates a scoring system based user reviews– in this case, 4600 reviews), compared to the audience approval score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This is due to the Chinese’ distaste for westernized Chinese culture. For them, watching Crazy Rich Asians is the equivalent of eating orange chicken – it feels unauthentic. This same sort of discontent was felt among Chinese audiences of The Joy Luck Club, a book/movie about Chinese mothers and daughters that was written by Amy Tan, a Chinese American. They felt as if the culture portrayed in the book was inaccurate and stereotypical.
Though ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ was a huge hit for Asian Americans, differences between experiences, culture, and even government ideals may prevent mainland Chinese from receiving the film in the same way.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures