Yesterday, I went to my local movie theater to watch Crazy Rich Asians with my sister and friend. The movie started off with the Young family experiencing racism at a big hotel, and I could instantly relate. My parents are fluent in English, but my dad has a heavy accent so some may not understand him. However, he’s fluent in Hindi, Punjabi, and English, which is fluency in two more languages than the average American.
I chuckled at the funny parts, like when Rachel Chu and Nick Young, the main characters, were photographed having coffee together. How scandalous! Not only could I relate to the “what will others think” mentality in Asian culture, but I also found myself agreeing with Nick’s mom, Eleanor, who bluntly stated — and showed — family is the base of everything. Overall, this movie was packed with hilarious scenes and a relatable family.
However, there were two major disappointments that showed in the movie; there were only light-skinned Asian actors and all of the characters had white names. Asians are infamously known for promoting light skin tones, while Europeans and Americans go out of their way during the summer to tan and become darker. Successful female actresses in Bollywood, India’s Hindi film industry, are not diverse (in terms of skin tone), and brands like Fair and Lovely only perpetuate that toxic mindset. Even though I was born and brought up in America, I too used to wish that I had fairer skin, like some of my family members. That way of thinking is imprinted in my brain and subconscious now, and whenever I look darker than I am in photos, I criticize myself for looking ugly. More often than not, I have taken down photos on my Instagram because I looked too dark. I never actually realized what I was doing, but in retrospect, it’s the victims of a mindset/way of life that end up carrying it on. This thinking has also caused Asians to look down upon black people. Not only do most Asians have pre-conceived biased opinions, their implicit biases end up causing them to be racist and disrespectful towards people with darker skin tones.
Besides the light skin tones, traditional Asian names were missing from the movie. Yes, some Asians don’t have traditional Asian names, but when looking at the cast of the movie, 90% of the characters had white names, and no major character had a traditional first name. This was the biggest disappointment for me personally as Americans are always struggling how to say different names. Many people have pronounced my own name, Harnoor, as whore-noor, and laughed when I told them that was not how you pronounce it. Not only is laughing when someone is trying to educate you incredibly rude, it is also extremely disrespectful. Harnoor means “God’s light” and is now a name only used on formal papers because I could not bear to hear more people slaughtering the pronunciation of my name.
Crazy Rich Asians was a great movie, but it missed out on an opportunity to change the game and step outside of comedy to educate others.
Picture credits: Crazy Rich Asians Official Website