September 14, 2018
Toward a materialist history of Crazy Rich Asians
What the film’s central conflict turns upon is not simply strife between rich and poor, Asian and American, but rather the friction between different forms of accumulation—landed rents, financial interest, industrial profits, et cetera—that are historical in character and can be located throughout the diasporic division of labor that has evolved across Asia the past half-century. These tensions are a palpable reality in everyday life in Asia today, bubbling up periodically in the tabloid press, from the Kyoto locals who deride the recent influx of Chinese tourists as “pollution” to Hong Kong TV commercials in which Chinese actors wear dark makeup to portray Filipina domestic workers. Such economic racism is perhaps the clearest marker of all of modern Asia’s shared resemblances with Europe and America.
September 14, 2018
Crazy Rich Asians might best be described as a big-tent romantic comedy. It makes plenty of room for a multigenerational family saga, a modern day fairy tale, a domestic marital drama, a satirical comedy of manners, a slapstick farce, and an epic heroic journey. There are catty asides and subtle and not-so-subtle power plays, farcical set pieces and relationship turmoil. The director John M. Chu, the writers Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, and the entire cast turned Crazy Rich Asians into a trojan horse for all the unmade Asian American movies audiences have missed out on their entire lives.
This August I went to Moscow for the first time in over a year. I was there to help my grandmother move, a move necessitated in part by the fact that my sister, Masha, is leaving the country after twenty years. Masha is leaving the country because she is gay, and the Russian parliament, with the full support of the Kremlin, has decided that gay people are what’s wrong with Russia. A recent law even suggested that gay couples who had adopted could be stripped of parental rights; Masha adopted her son Vova twelve years ago. It was time to go.
If there is one thing I heard a thousand times in Samarkand, it was how they have the greatest bread in Uzbekistan because of their amazingly clean water and air. The famous bread of Samarkand comes in round, flat loaves, known in Russian as lepyoshka. As legend has it, the Emir of Bukhara once summoned the best baker of Samarkand to bake him some Samarkand bread.
I knew lots of people like that—unloved because unlovable. Toward them I was always cold. Maybe I held them at arm’s length to disguise from myself our shared predicament. And so, by trying to disguise something from yourself, you declare it to everyone else—because part of what makes a person unlovable is his inability to love.