Crazy Rich Asians: Why representation in the media matters to me


Warner Bros. Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jamie Ma, Editor-in-Chief

I was six years old when I first realized how desperately I wanted an American Girl Doll.

I wanted my doll to look like my idol Taylor Swift: big blue eyes, blond hair, dainty nose, the works. So, one can imagine the bittersweet disappointment I felt when my grandma bought me my first American Girl Doll (one of those look-alike ones)‒and it was gloriously Asian-looking.

I stared at the dark, almond-shaped eyes and black hair in disgust. That wasn’t me. Or, at least, I didn’t want that to be me. I wanted to be white.

Now, a contrasting situation. Last year, my grandma bought my little cousin a Korean-American Girl Doll. I had never seen a 4 year old more ecstatic. She had a doll whose eastern features mirrored hers.

There was only a decade difference between the two situations. In fact, other than our reactions, the situations were the same. I hated being Korean, while my cousin embraced it.

Growing up, I was surrounded by a white media. I rarely, if ever, saw people who looked like me on any screen.

And, just like almost every other little girl, I aspired to be like famous white females: Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, Hannah Montana. But in doing so, I aspired to be someone I physically, mentally, and culturally wasn’t.

So when I saw the film Crazy Rich Asians last week, the emotions I felt were indescribable.

Sure, the plot might have been cliched. Sure, the plot didn’t follow the book. Etc., etc. But the impact of the full Asian cast made me feel like I, and the people of my race, were important. I wasn’t ignored.

It’s the cultural impact the film had‒the representation and portrayal of Asian people in the western world as normal‒ that makes Crazy Rich Asians such an important film.

Granted, my cousin is too young to see the PG-13 rated movie. But she gets to grow up in a society where her race is represented, and not just as a stereotypical character.

As of yesterday, the film has raked in over $76.8 million. To me, to my little cousin, and to Asian-Americans everywhere: Crazy Rich Asians is the film that shows everyone else that though we’re nowhere near close to Singaporean-billionaire-rich, we are human‒and we are important.