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Crazy Rich Asians

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Nira Sun
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Crazy Rich Asians

The film “Crazy Rich Asians” has became a hot topic lately, so my friends and I decided to watch it. I definitely think this is one of the films that I can introduce to my students. What’s interesting was that lots of my students told me how much they wanted to watch this film. They were so eager to hear my opinions towards it.

The question I got the most from my students was “was it accurate?” Well, that is a good question and a good start point for my students to work on. Hence, before they start watching the film, I would like to ask them “What do you mean by ‘was it accurate’”. With that question in mind, students can try to look for the answers from the film.

The most significant concept that was conveyed as the plot unfolded was the balance between individual feelings and bigger benefits which are usually family or community benefits. That also leads to a very common behavior in Asian culture which is “to sacrifice”:

  • The Mom, Eleanor, has to sacrifice her son’s love in order to maintain the reputation of the family because they cannot afford to have a wife who has some unpleasant history even thought it was not even her fault.
  • Nick’s sister, Astrid sacrifices wealthy life style so that her husband doesn’t have to feel embarrassed to the fact that he is not as wealthy as his wife.
  • Rachel’s mom has to leave all her life behind and take little Rachel to the America so that they could have a peaceful life.
  • Rachel decides to sacrifice her love at the end so that Nick wouldn’t have to be suffering in between her and his family.

Now, I will have my students extract the commonality among all the sacrifices. It is quite obvious that all the sacrifice was made by women for men.  I think, when we get to this point, students can start looking for connection to their own life. Are there any sacrifices made by their family members? Who made the sacrifices? For whom? Once they find the connection, they for sure will find the answers to the question of whether it’s accurate.

Another concern of being accurate or not is probably focused on the “rich” part of the movie. Are Asians really that crazy rich? Well, Yes and No. As for this part, I will have students list some of the popular movies played in theatre in recent years. Then students will do a little research on these movies to find out their production companies and their background. As we have discussed in the seminar, students will be surprised to find out that majority of the production companies are owned by Chinese, such as the Dalian Wanda Group. At least I was surprised to know that Wanda is also the majority shareholder of the AMC Theatre which explained the increased amount of Chinese films being played in AMC Theatres. Such information will help students to understand that “being rich” in China indeed exits.

The movie was taken place and filmed mainly in Singapore, one of the most developed Asian country.  This will a great opportunity to learn about this country and its income inequality.  

Last but not least, Mahjong. I remember this one great scene which requires some basic Mahjong knowledge to understand what it was implying. Mahjong is one of the most popular leisure activities in China. I would like to design couple of class sessions for them to learn how Mahjong works. We will then go back to watch that scene in hopes that students can gain much deeper understanding on how the “sacrifice” was demonstrated in the movie: Rachel has this one Mahjong piece that could totally make her win the entire game. However, she decided to give that piece up so that Eleanor, Nick’s Mom, could win instead. Metaphorically speaking, Nick’s love to Rachel is that trump card that Rachel is holding. With that being said, When Rachel gave up Nick, this Mahjong piece got passed (back) to Eleanor, who ended up winning the game.  Is that a REAL winning? That is up to audiences to decide.

Overall, I would recommend this movie to be used in classroom for students to comprehend and compare cultures.

Helen Kang
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Helen Kang's picture
Mahjong game explained!-Thank you

Thank you Nira, for explaining the meaning of the Mahjong game. I do not know how to play it so when I saw that scene in the movie I knew there was some significant meaning hidden in the game and now after reading about the single key piece that Rachel gave up, I recall the scene in my mind to the part where she reveals her pieces and it absolutely heightens the impact of
Rachel's actions in a very profound way.