(reposted from my Medium account)
With his hands draped over his knees, a skinny blonde boy stared at me on a soccer field in a late autumn day. After taking my gangly, short frame a few moments, he muttered “What are you supposed to be? Chinese?”
In life, so many moments come and go without any trace or memory of it. They come in and fade away like a gentle breeze.
But that day on the soccer field is one that will stick with me to my dying day. It was the first time that I realized that I was not like the others.
That I was different.
Crazy Rich Asians has drawn comparisons to Black Panther for its refreshing, all-asian cast and crew, representing a minority group that often gets overlooked in popular media and entertainment. As a comic-book fan myself, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but this movie is important-and not for asians, but especially to the non-asian community, as to why stereotypes, good and bad, are almost always negative.
I’ve wrote before about the asian communities excitement over Black Pantherand it looks like people are just as excited to see Asians portrayed in a non-stereotypical level after just two weeks. CNN reports that Crazy Rich Asians generated an additional $25 million in its second week, compared with $34 million in its opening weekend, making the 6% dropoff one of the more impressive stories in Hollywood.
As a marketing person, I wanted to review Warner Bros.’ advertising efforts to see what they did to make Crazy Rich Asians such a success. While it’s not insane Black Panther numbers, the movie has already been the biggest hit comedy this year (if you exclude other superhero movies that is).
So what gives?
Adweek covered some of the marketing tactics the studios used to promote the film, which began long before the movies released. Among the hashtags made popular on social media were #goldopen and #representationmatters.
This last hashtag is particularly important because it speaks to a broader, social issue of representation in Hollywood, something most of us in the wokesphere know all too well.
It was never really about the marketing, but about the need
Crazy Rich Asians sounds like its about spoiled, rich 30 somethings with a lot of money to spend and even more pretentiousness to go around. Of course the heart of the story is really about a cross of Asian-American and Asian culture coming to a confluence with interlapping subtexts of wealth, class, and racial identity.
There are “bad” asian characters, like Michelle Yeoh’s excellent portrayal of Eleanor, Nick Young’s overbearing, family-first mama bear mom. But it’s a refreshing portrayal for the same reason the asian douche in the Cobra Kai remake is-in that it’s breaking stereotypes of what asians are supposed to be. We’re not all humble, penny-pinching nobodies….sometimes we’re just like everyone else-not particularly good at math, not good at martial arts, and sometimes we get the girl (good looking out for us Asian males, Henry Golding).
Many people mistakenly believe that by minority groups wanting better “representation” in media, that they mean casting them in a better light. It’s why they wonder why Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee became such global icons, yet we still complain about proper representation.
This is why Crazy Rich Asians is so important for the Asian (and especially the Asian-American) community, and why the movie has already become such a massive hit. Global audiences are beginning to understand that Asians are much more complex and nuanced that we’re typically portrayed in entertainment. We can be rich, poor, funny, charming, boring, strong-willed, weak-minded, and everything in between.
And that is enough of a marketing vehicle all by itself. To be honest, this movie didn’t need much of a marketing push…just a reminder that this movie exists, and it’s something that everyone, of all races should watch. If nothing else, just to see what it’s like when an underrepresented minority group gets a chance to do something different.
We’ve suffered whitewashing of Asian characters for far too long, and now is the time to change the game.