Crazy Rich Asians and a new age of storytelling

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Hollywood / philosophy

“I can tell you one thing—these people are richer than God”

crazyrichasians

I went to go see the readily acclaimed film, Crazy Rich Asians, and for once, I can vouch for the Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%.

It’s the first movie in over 25 years to possess a majority Asian-American cast in spite of Asian-Americans climbing up the socioeconomic ladder in the past few decades. In the face of this, it’s not surprising that many are jealous of Asian-Americans.

Louis L’Amour, the prodigious novelist, would say:

“I am writing about men and women who were settling a new country, finding their way through a maze of difficulties, and learning to survive despite them.”

This is why, as an adolescent, I researched a report on atrocities committed against the wave of Chinese immigrants who arrived to America in the late 19th century. Like others, namely the Irish and Germans, they moved here in search of better conditions as is the immigrant tale. However, they were considered the lowest of the low, forced to endure unspeakable conditions. Why did history largely forget as well as demean their struggle?

For example, take the case of Michael Luo who penned this article to the New York Times in the summer of 2016:

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 8.13.54 PM

 

He goes on to state:

“My parents fled mainland China for Taiwan ahead of the Communist takeover. They came to the United States for graduate school. They raised two children, both of whom went to Harvard. I work at The New York Times. Model minority, indeed.

Yet somehow I still often feel like an outsider.”

The critical question is that after the dawn of political correctness and leftist media outlets, why is anyone allowed to feel this way? Imagine if that same lady said “Go back to Africa” to an African-American man strolling down the street. We can all  imagine the level of vitriol that would be flung her way.

History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes. Barack Obama paved the path for African-Americans looking to enter high society. But that same media who continues to worship him seems to forget that there is and has been a massive injustice placed onto Asian-Americans for centuries.

Brando Starkey expands on this point by explaining how Asian-Americans fled turmoil in their home countries to move to America. There they would work, day and night, and then hope to return after about five years. Instead, white laborers saw them as competition and the thin line protecting Asian immigrants dissolved:

The state of California then began codifying racism in law, a fact punctuated when, in 1854, the California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Hall that the testimony of a Chinese man who witnessed a murder was inadmissible against a white criminal defendant, chiefly because, per popular thought, the Chinese were “a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point. …”

Seems to me analogous to the plight of African and Caribbean slaves shipped to the United States during the same period. Where is their justice however?


As I witnessed Crazy Rich Asians, the first scene is a dark screen filled with the words:

“Let China sleep for when she wakes, she will shake the world” 

— Napoleon Bonaparte

I suspect that there is a massive sense of unease within the upper echelons of Western elites with the current global situation. Harvard has made it crystal clear that they discriminate against Asian-Americans much like they did with Jewish applicants back in the 1930s. Not repeating, but indeed rhyming.

From the Boston Globe:

“The discrimination in education against Asian-American applicants causes real and tangible harm,” the Asian American Legal Foundation and the Asian American Coalition for Education said in legal filings that backed the complaint against Harvard’s policies. “It causes Asian-Americans to feel that they are not valued as much as other citizens. It causes many young Asian-Americans to feel a sense of inferiority, hopelessness and anger.”

My personal views of affirmative action is that it, like many other tactics of government intervention, misses the issue entirely. Inequality in the form of college admissions is often the result of socioeconomic imbalances.

And Cheng’s remark of those who have used affirmative action to their advantage and  want to continue its use:

He questioned the Harvard students who said they had benefited from race-conscious admissions and said these students were an anomaly, considering the analysis of the admissions data by Students for Fair Admissions.

And, he said, because they benefited from Harvard’s procedures and got in, these Asian-American students also don’t have a right to speak out about these policies that others see as unfair.

Cheng said it would be akin to a child of a slave-owner arguing that slavery should remain in place, or a beneficiary of segregation arguing in favor of it.

An unforeseen consequence of the wealth generated by Western technology and financial innovation in the last 60 years. However, this charade of equality done by Harvard fails because diversity quotas are primarily a function of race in their narrow view.

Resulting in situations like this:

Cheng, a Harvard graduate, said he has spent 25 years conducting alumni interviews of applicants for the university and believes that Asian-Americans must meet a higher bar.

“Out of 100 students I have interviewed, I have never interviewed an Asian-American who has gotten in,” Cheng said. “In some cases, it was shocking.”

Economic historians believe that Western Europe got the upper hand over the Asian Tigers with the Great Divergence, the time at which Britain leveraged its technological prowess to propel past its peers, that most believe to have taken place in 1820. This was due to the Industrial Revolution – of which we can still view the effects today rippling through society.

Now with Xi at its helm, China is coming back for its glory in the form of…Hollywood movies? And even that, a supposed cheesy rom-com like Crazy Rich Asians? Obviously it’s not just Hollywood at the cause of China’s – and Asia’s – rapid ascent. One can almost view the geopolitical plates spinning as the West, not just the elites, has their eyes opened to the power that is in the East.

Our expectations of the future are drawn from the well of stories we’re told as children. Think of NASA’s employees accumulating inspiration from Star Trek when they were kids. Who would have thought that letting your kids watch TV would lead to us going to the stars.

In fact, the story of Hollywood is one that mimics that of Asian representation right now. The founders of the major film studios were Eastern European immigrants that saw an opportunity and thought they could make a name for themselves. Why did they move? To escape Edison’s egregious copyright practices in the east; California has always been a refuge from the outside world. Ethnically Asian kids growing up will perhaps view Crazy Rich Asians as the subsequent verse in their long tradition of story-telling: this one as major as the start of Hollywood roughly a century ago.

With the East awakening once more, there is a strong likelihood that the seats of global power will have shifted a century from now. After China shakes the world, our kids and grandkids could be indeed be taking inspiration from the rich traditions of Asian culture and folklore.

The Author

I write about tech, philosophy, and macroeconomics.

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