Go to the Theater for Crazy Rich Asians, Stay for the Trailers
If you haven’t seen Crazy Rich Asians yet, I forgive you — it’s only been in theaters for two weeks. But if you haven’t even heard of Crazy Rich Asians, well, that’s as unforgivable as an American-born Chinese commoner marrying Singaporean royalty (at least according to the dreamy protagonist’s crazy rich mom)…
Why Everybody’s Talking About It
Based on the 2013 eponymous novel by Kevin Kwan — a guilty pleasure read that’s best imbibed on a beach, fruity cocktail in hand—Crazy Rich Asians is a good movie in its own right. But that’s not the main reason it has caused such a rumbling in the media and across social networks.
What’s groundbreaking is that it’s the first Hollywood film featuring an all-Asian cast in 25 years (the 1993 movie The Joy Luck Club came first). Director Jon M. Chu made a huge gamble by rejecting a crazy generous offer from Netflix to take Crazy Rich Asians straight to Hollywood — and his bet was a wild success. Box-office experts had predicted the movie would open at about $18 million over the first five days. It grossed $32.5 million in its opening weekend alone (compare that to Black Panther, another film that smashed Hollywood stereotypes and the box office, which grossed $202 million in its first weekend).
So Crazy Rich Asians has been a surprising success. By now, most of us understand that the movie matters because it’s a huge step forward for inclusion — not only in Hollywood, but in society. Everybody’s talking about it. Many Asian-Americans are seeing their culture represented on the big screen for the first time ever. Many non-Asian-Americans are being introduced to a culture with which they are unfamiliar—either willingly or, more likely, through the fault of a white-centric entertainment industry.
But That’s Not My Point
But this conversation is already happening, and I don’t have anything new to add to the noise. Instead, I want to focus on what nobody’s talking about: the trailers that are being shown in theaters before Crazy Rich Asians even starts.
I’ve been to countless movies. Like a bad Tinder date, trailers are more often than not trite, one-dimensional, and long. By the time the movie starts, I’m usually so bored that I’ve eaten all my popcorn and Sour Patch Kids, and I’ve forgotten which movie I came to watch. Not so with Crazy Rich Asians. So make sure you grab your theater seats well before the movie starts, because you won’t want to miss the trailers.
An Eye-Opening Trio of Trailers
As I settled into my seat at the AMC Kabuki 8 theater in San Francisco’s Japantown, I steeled myself to be force fed a solid 20 minutes of muscular, good-looking white men fighting evil in all its hyperbolic Hollywood forms. But as the lights dimmed, I had to rub my eyes a few times because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Let’s start with the first trailer: On the Basis of Sex—an exploration of the life, career, and feminist struggles of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
This struck me as a little too feminist for a Hollywood movie. Also, the main character isn’t particularly sexy or under-clothed. But okay — on to the next trailer.
Next came Widows—a rallying cry for middle-aged, widowed women (of color, might I add) who take their fates into their own hands after their husbands are killed.
At this point, I turned to my friend and whispered, “Whoa, Hollywood must have really taken the #MeToo movement to heart. Look at all these women protagonists!”
And then, the third trailer: Second Act—an inspirational drama about a middle-aged Latina woman (played by the ever-sexy, age-defying Jennifer Lopez, but still, the sentiment is there) who works a dead-end retail job and decides to turn her life around by pursuing a new high-powered career.
What? An entire movie about a low-income, minority woman navigating a male-dominated system? Three successive trailers starring women and/or people of color? Hollywood isn’t joking around anymore.
By the time Crazy Rich Asians blasted onto the screen, I was in such a confused and euphoric emotional state that I couldn’t focus. What was going on here?
A Change Isn’t Coming — It’s Already Here
The entire cinematic experience that Crazy Rich Asians delivered, from the trailers to the ending credits, made one thing abundantly clear: A change isn’t coming — it’s already here.
Crazy Rich Asians may be one of the more publicized by-products of the inclusion movement in Hollywood (as was Black Panther), but it’s far from the only one. The rallying cry for better inclusion, fairer treatment, and equal pay that shook Hollywood and is beginning to permeate our culture has dramatically shifted the entertainment landscape across the board, from movies to TV, music to sports. Entertainment now is a far cry from what it was just a few years ago, when white male superheroes, athletes, and talent dominated. It’s as if we’ve stepped into an alternate universe. And to be honest, I kind of like it.
It’s often said that Hollywood is America’s greatest export. If that’s true, the changes we’re seeing in entertainment could have a palpable cultural impact not only on our country, but the whole world. Crazy Rich Asians is just the beginning—I can’t wait to see what comes next.