Without a doubt, “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first core Hollywood movie featuring Asian-American and Asia cast in twenty-five years to have a record-breaking performance at box office. The movie made about $237 million all across the world and that made it the highest grossing rom-com of this past decade.
The movie is about a gorgeous and extremely rich Young family. It particularly relates to Rachel Chu who without prior knowledge is in a romantic relationship with the family’s heir apparent. The movie makes it the first time ever that the Asian and Asian-American would be able to indulge in such a rom-com fantasy.
The success of the movie ironically has links to one of its popular criticisms: that it makes use of affluence in selling its diversity. Some movie critics are of the opinion that through its approach to primarily celebrating the lives of very beautiful and rich Asian people, it failed to actually capture the essence of the Asian as well as the Asian-American population.
However, even these critics would agree that it isn’t compulsory that one fully embraces the upper crust narrative or affluence porn of the movie to fully understand that its success possesses the ability to break records.
The movie obviously sells the dream woven around extreme affluence. Its appeal stems from how it successfully puts across the Young family’s billionaire fantasy. The movie reportedly had a relatively modest budget of about $30 million and it still succeeded in showcasing lavish homes and condos. For instance, Eleanor Young in the movie reeks of lavish fashion. In the scene when Peik Lin tries to explain how the Young family got their fortune or when Nick tries to talk about his cousins and their status in the society, it appears to be more of superhero origin tale or Greek myth other than a regular family’s story.
The story also capitalizes on luxury seduction, Eleanor wants to do everything possible to protect both her son and the fortune of the family from Rachel who she sees as someone only after their family’s wealth. Rachel, on the other hand, had the ability to leave both Nick and his life of affluence when the need arose and that left a lot of viewers wondering the possibility of them taking that same decision if they found themselves in a similar situation. The luxury painted in the movie doesn’t serve just one purpose as it also helps to make the Youngs desirable and aspirational.
Typical Movie Adaptation
Most times in movie adaptation, luxury and affluence have typically been tools used by Hollywood to ensure that a niche or esoteric theme has more appeal to larger mainstream audiences. The stories told by Nancy Meyer in Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated have been cheered for its ability to successfully explore the romantic lives of older women considering that the stories of these women usually never get explored in the Hollywood movies. A major reason why those movies were deemed alluring to larger women other than their protagonists being women is also that they have beautiful homes with the inclusion of amazing kitchens and the best lives money could possibly buy.
Also, 50 Shades of Grey had its BDSM components perfectly smuggled into the movie and its mass appeal stemmed from the affluence of Christian Grey. As seen in the movie’s adaptations, the idea of being submissive to Grey was overshadowed by the affluence and high-end perks it had with it.
Hollywood’s Manipulation of Wealth
There are diverse ways through which Hollywood portrays the superrich. Movies such as Margin Call and The Wolf of Wall Street make the finance sector appear frightening and raise the suggestion that money could lead to a rotten soul. In addition, reality series such as Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives break down the common fantasy that rich people are also exceptionally powerful or smart people by showing these affluent people behaving in below-standard ways. Also, one cannot forget the lesson gotten from the Great Gatsby which is that love or happiness cannot be bought with money.
All the above begs the question of the exact nature of wealth that makes it easy for Hollywood to make movies that do not conform to the norm. Also, it raises concern about what the audience attribute to affluence which helps in the reinforcement of Hollywood’s loyalty to it, is it the wish-fulfillment or aspiration or is it the moral value?