It’s 2018, which means we are now within the same calendar year as the release of “Crazy Rich Asians;” a film adaptation of the Kevin Kwan novel of the same name, about a Chinese American woman who accompanies her boyfriend back to his native Singapore for his best friend’s wedding, only to discover that her boyfriend is from an incredibly wealthy family and is wanted by every woman.
All the leads in the film are of Asian descent, and that includes actor Henry Golding, who stars opposite of Constance Wu’s Rachel Chu as her boyfriend, Nick Young. Ever since it was announced last year that he had been cast as the male lead, criticisms have gone around on the fact that a Hapa guy would be playing the Singaporean Chinese character. Golding is of Malaysian and British descent, and has expressed dismay over people commenting on how he’s “not Asian enough” and how some have even gone as far as saying that the role has been whitewashed.
In the past, I have mentioned how discussions need to start happening when it comes to casting for mixed race characters. While this circumstance is the opposite – a mixed race actor playing a monoracial character – it still lends itself to a similar vein. While I can’t speak as to whether or not the casting is being faithful to the book – seeing that I have not read it – I do have my share of arguments for why I think it is okay for Golding to play this character.
A year ago, when director Jon Chu encouraged fans to post their video auditions for “Crazy Rich Asians,” he said he was looking for Asians to audition – but he never specified what kind of Asians. He never said whether or not one had to be East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, or even Hapa. One didn’t even have to be from any particular country in the world to audition. He just said that if you’re Asian, come audition. Golding may be part Asian, but he’s still Asian. Therefore, that alone qualifies him.
The Huffington Post did a good job on also going in depth on Golding’s casting, and Biola University’s Sociology Department Chair Nancy Yuen made a fair point on how it was the opposite when it came to the election of Former President Barack Obama. Many people identify him as a Black man, often overlooking the fact that his mother was White.
A similar effect can be said of that of Bruce Lee; the famed actor/martial artist who is one of the most iconic Asian American figures. However, what many people may not realize is that he was actually part White, for his mother was of Chinese and German descent. It’s because of his mixed heritage that actually led to him being forbidden to practice at certain martial arts schools in Hong Kong, due to not being full Chinese. It should be no surprise then that he always had an inclusive look on the world, and considered everyone one big family.
So if Obama – despite his mixed heritage – can still be seen as America’s first Black president and if Lee – despite his own mixed heritage – can be seen as an iconic Asian American figure, then there should be no argument against Golding’s casting for “Crazy Rich Asians.” Just because we’re part Asian, does not mean we should be dismissed from being part of the wide and diverse Asian/Asian American experience.
Photo credit: hugolim.com on Flickr