friendship

Thoughts on Crazy Rich Asians

My apologies to y’all for being on hiatus for so long. I am actually undergoing some major changes in my life, specifically a career change. I am going back to school to become a civil engineer. I start school again in September. It’s gonna be an adventure.

craAnyway, a good friend and I recently watched Crazy Rich Asians (2018). Neither of us had read the book beforehand, but I thought, listen, we’re getting a movie with an entirely Asian cast. Clearly we cannot miss this.

There is a lot about Crazy Rich Asians that makes it really different from other romantic movies. The friend I saw it with is Korean and is familiar with Korean soap operas, and she says the movie is “basically a Korean soap opera, but in a 2-hour movie instead of a 20-hour television series”. I understand what she means; the film does a much better job of character development than the average romantic comedy.

First of all, I think both Constance Wu and Henry Golding deserve better than the roles they were put in. Wu is such a badass. She could easily play a lead role in a Marvel movie. In this film, she plays kind of a sappy, second-wave Asian girl who somehow doesn’t know who the richest family in Singapore is even though she’s an economics professor at NYU. Is anyone else not a little bothered by this? Isn’t it supposed to be harder to fool a woman of her caliber? Purportedly, the novel is based on some truth, but I feel like there was a way to portray Rachel Chu that makes her look less silly.

My friend and I also had problems with Nick Young (Golding) as a character. In my friend’s words, “He seems dumb. He has no empathy for Rachel. When she’s being destroyed, he offers her sushi.” I do see her point. My critique comes from how Nick doesn’t seem like a real character. The story focuses so much on Rachel and her experience of the family. Nick barely does anything, which makes him look like a mama’s boy who gets whatever he wants. Maybe that was the point. I was just hoping for someone more complicated. Hasn’t Golding played Oscar-nominated roles before, or am I getting my Asians mixed up?

My other problem with the film is that the supporting characters are FAR more interesting than the two leads. My god, where do I begin. First, I’m in love with Astrid Young (Gemma Chan). According to my friend, there is a character like this in every Korean soap opera: a beautiful model-girl/lawyer/CEO who is modest and kind to everyone. She reminds me a little of Raina Amin (Yasmin Al Massri) from Quantico. I love that moment when she tells her husband, Michael (Pierre Png), that she can’t give him something he has never had, and walks away. Seriously, the supporting women in this film carry the entire movie.

Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) is also such a fierce bitch. I love all of her outfits. When I’m an old Asian woman, I want to be that gorgeous. Honestly, I was a little bored with the fact that the future-mother-in-law is the antagonist because if you observe what she says, Eleanor is not actually working against Rachel. She is just brutally honest. When she says Rachel could never measure up to the family’s expectations, she speaks from experience. As a first generation child of immigrants, I can relate to that sentiment. I try to be honest with my white partner about what my family will expect from them. If anything, Eleanor is doing Rachel a favor.

On a tangent, I thought the story would have been more interesting if Rachel and Nick did not end up together, but perhaps were brought together by circumstance later on in their lives, perhaps after a child or two and a divorce or two. I think that would have been a more realistic story. But I guess the movie had to appeal to an American audience, and Americans are hardly realistic.

In addition, Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina) is fantastic. Her family is fantastic, too. She and Oliver T’sien (Nico Santos) are the gay best friends that everybody needs to have. I love how she shows up to the Young’s estate in dog-print pajamas and changes in their house like it’s no big deal. She is also a fucking good friend to Rachel (women, take note: this is how to be there for one another in the most feminist way). She gives her the outfits she needs to fit in with these crazy rich people. She gives her a place to stay when she’s bummed and has no will to do anything (because she thinks she’s not going to end up with Nick. Women, take note: this is a stupid way to be. Being with a man is not everything. They should have gone to the mall and been fabulous.) She knows how to have a good time and not take herself seriously. Best character.

I do enjoy the cast of goofy men in this film, too. Ronnie Chieng as Eddie Young is perfect. Ronnie does a great dickbag impression. I also very much enjoyed Jimmy O. Yang as Bernard. In the words of my friend, “there’s always that one guy who wears ridiculous things and is a huge asshole.”

While the plot is a bit contrived, I do enjoy the absolutely beautiful shots of Singapore. My mother has been to that country and I greatly envy her for it. I love the implication that Asian countries can and do compete with the U.S. as beautiful places. I have always contended with the idea of a “first world” and the rest of the world, and while this movie perhaps does not contradict that (it is about rich Asians, after all), it does challenge the notion that all Asian immigrants were escaping communist dictators or abject poverty. Now someone just make a movie about crazy rich Arabs, and I shall be satisfied.

All in all, I would say Crazy Rich Asians is a visually stunning piece with some notable supporting female characters. Though I wish the same could be said of the main characters, I am impressed by the level of detail that was given to the supporting characters. There were so many, but I did feel as if each one was a whole person. A work in progress, I hope to see more in this vein, but bigger, more fireworks!

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More Confessions

I have another confession. It requires that I tell a rather long and drawn out story, one that might end terribly, or worse, it might never end. The part that sucks is that I’m in the middle of it right now, so I don’t actually know which way it is going to go.

It starts a little over a year ago. I began my master’s degree in this place that is far from home and where I felt very lonely. I made a small handful of friends, and there was one in particular to whom I became very attached. Attached is a mild word for it, really. This person was someone with whom I felt this spiritual, other-worldly connection. We became very close very quickly. I loved this person unfathomably. I think I actually still do, but I have come to resent the love I feel because of the way things played out.

At the end of the last school year, this person shared with me a few things about the relationship that she was growing weary of. There was a particular incident with another person, a mutual friend, which had offended them (this isn’t their usual pronoun; I’ve changed it for the sake of this story). I hadn’t included them on this night when we had ordered dinner, and they were angry. I felt the anger was justified. I know I tend to compartmentalize certain interactions that, in real life, can’t be compartmentalized at all. We talked about the incident, and I thought the conflict was over. I thought we could move on from then. I don’t think this person or I knew at that point just how deep their frustration with me was.

Summer began, and I moved to Atlanta to do an internship for two months. At the beginning of the summer, this friend and I kept in touch usually by texting each other, but I noticed that as the two months progressed, this person responded to me less and less. At first, it might have taken a day or two to respond, but that time increased to a week, and then two, and then finally, there was no response at all. I continued to send them messages throughout the summer. They had said during the year that sometimes they take note of things and simply don’t respond. I sent them things that I thought though would enjoy hearing, or perhaps that would be interesting to them. They were messages sent in sincerity, from the bottom of my heart. I wanted them to know that even though I was far away, I was still thinking about them.

When I came back, I knew something was wrong. The two of us met long before classes started, but they weren’t speaking to me, at least not the way they usually do. I finally invited them to dinner. I needed to know what was going on, so I asked at that point, when we got together for dinner. Looking back now, I think that was a big gesture I made. I didn’t have to ask them what the problem was. In fact, it says a lot that they didn’t come to me and just tell me what was wrong. They made me go to them. They made me “figure it out”. They made me hold them accountable.

Anyway, all their frustration with me came out at that dinner. Apparently, they believed I was abusive and manipulative. They felt I was receiving more from the relationship than they were. They explained that they thought there was a lot they were giving me, and I could see where that was coming from. Throughout the year before, I would come to them with my issues with my work, how little support I felt I was receiving, the alienation I felt in both my new environment and my program, and many other things. I guess they felt as though they had to advise me. Perhaps I could have named this at some point, but I did not require that from them, and it saddens me that they thought I did. Furthermore, they also said that they felt I didn’t listen to them when they shared problems with me. Or rather, that my responses weren’t genuine. I would be very quiet when they explained things. Sometimes I might not respond. I could understand this as well. I think at times, when someone comes to me with problems, I don’t want to give the impression that I have any right to comment on their life. I also don’t really know how to respond sometimes, to be really honest. I don’t want to sound scripted or rehearsed, but sometimes a genuine answer is hard to give to things that are truly painful. But to them, this made them feel as though, in their words, I wasn’t willing to make myself vulnerable, nor was I willing to make mistakes (or acknowledge the ones I made).

It hurt a lot to hear those things. Hurt is an understatement. This image I had of this wonderful friendship was suddenly shattered. Clearly it was far from perfect, if this person’s dissatisfaction could go on for that long and I didn’t know.

I think the part that  hurt the most was when they said to me that it angered them when they received my texts over summer. They said they repeatedly felt anger whenever I texted them. That’s why they had been ignoring me. So there I had been thinking that I was showing affection and warmth by keeping in touch, and actually it had been irritating them the entire time. It hurts me the most that they didn’t tell me that. For nearly five months, I had been exposing my heart to this person, and that action was annoying to them. It was irksome. It made me feel disposable. They claim that this was because they thought it would be better to tell me these things in person. So they allowed me to go deeper and deeper into confusion for the sake of some notion of propriety in which we tell people important stuff in person.

I withdrew from them after that. I haven’t seen this person one-on-one since that night that we had dinner. Frankly, at this point, I’m not sure that I want to either. Staying away from them has certainly protected them from any more feelings of abuse or manipulation. Though, I also don’t think I want to see them because I hurt. I hurt a lot right now. They love telling me that “hurt people hurt people”, and that I am definitely one of the hurt persons in question. And it is implied that I hurt people when I am hurt. I’m sure I do.

The part I hate most is that I think I still love them, but I don’t want to. It would make my life a lot easier if I could stop loving them. If I could leave and not bat an eyelash that they would be gone. If I could tell them to get out of my life and never feel an ounce of guilt for it. I know that in the world of vulnerability and honesty and trust, we should work this out by speaking, addressing everything that has come up. But I don’t want to do that. I’m not the bigger person. I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t want to do “bigger person” things. I want to yell at them and be insanely mean. And if I did, that would be exactly what they expect of me.