Crazy Rich Asians

Dear Dazai,

I’m currently distracting myself from any possbility that I might not be able to cope without my meds by watching, well everything I can get my hands on. Reading as well, there’s a very exciting pile of books beside my bed that I have every intention of getting to reading very, very soon.

It’s an excellent distraction and honestly, I feel like I should have done this earlier. After a week in which my patience was tested by how quickly car windshields can be replaced and I can return to my bed, I found a few days with which to sit back and immerse myself in some serious art.

There is a bit of a double edged sword to art, not only is it something that is exceptionally personal, in a way that it won’t matter how many wonderful reviews are written about something, it is no guarantee that it’s going to be something that works for you. I know it’s about to end, but I’ve yet to watch an episode of Game of Thrones that I actually like. It’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with it, but for me, I’d rather poke my eyes out with toothpicks than be invested in it. The flip of that is that I now wish I’d been one of those smart people that had kept up with Brooklyn 99 because honestly, it’s beyond charming and more than worth the watch. But that’s simply what I think.

Which brings us to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’.

I’ve read a lot of reviews, tweets and even seen the Buzzfeed quizzes on it and honestly, I was really excited about it. I was excited that it was set in a place I’ve got fond memories of, with a cast that’s predominately Asian, something that’s very unusual in Hollywood, and that it seemed so luxurious. The visual spectacle in and of itself was something I was waiting for. I’m heavily influenced by visual imput, I like things that are visually captivating and beautiful. It’s why I love impressionism so much.

What I hadn’t figured watching it, was the emotional impact that it was going to have on me. There were tears, lots of tears, and for different reasons. There was the idea about family first, that filial loyalty, which my family often encourages. We’re Watsons before we’re anything else. In our case, I suspect that’s because we’ve been fairly nomadic, so we don’t have a particular cultural identity, so we rely on a familial one instead.

Second was the things people were doing, not the stupidly expensive or outrageous things which the movie has plenty of, but a lot of the little things. There’s a scene where the family is sitting round a table making dumplings, and I couldn’t help but remember helping my mum make samosas in a similar way. Or learning how to make dumplings from the matriarch of the family, and even now the memories of my grandmother, the only head of our family I knew, have me teary. She didn’t make dumplings, but she used to play board games with me and I can’t eat Japanese curry without thinking about her curry, which tasted so very similar.

One of the things I think I was surprised by was the nostalgia and warmth I felt towards the cultural aspect of what I was watching. I can remember being tiny and eating satay in Singapore with my cousins, or playing Mahjong as a family, or having family events which are so much bigger than you have initially envisioned. For me, most family representations in modern movies look nothing like my own, this was the first time I can think of where it resonated so much.

It’s also made me a little conflicted, because I’m not Asian. There might have been 150 years of my family born in India, but we’ve always been the colonials. So much so that when my father’s eldest brother was born, my grandfather was still a member of the Indian Army, before becoming a British Army officer after India’s independence. My heritage from that though is a British passport, not an Indian one, not that I expect that. I’m not unhappy that history unfolded the way it did, but it made me realise that maybe my understanding about my own culture isn’t what I thought it was.

There is also an aspect of this in modern, multicultural society, we’re exposed to all these things. We have a local Chinese, Thai, Indian, an Italian, a Greek and nearly anything else you could imagine. In fact, one of the best meals I’ve had in the last year was Thai food imagined with Australian ingredients, the vegemite curry being a particular highlight. But for me, these things were often things I experienced at home first. They were foods we had at family gatherings, food my mum made during the week, and food I took to school. Afterschool snacks for me weren’t vegemite toast, they were bowls of rice and curry sauce. I grew up with an Indian friend and insisted that her mum make curry when I visited because I couldn’t imagine why you’d ever turn it down.

Still I don’t really identify in that way and I’m not trying to. I’m not trying to appropriate anything from anyone, but at the same time, I hadn’t realised how much of my life has been built around these things until someone put them on a big screen for me to watch and made me cry good tears over it. I’m trying to make sense of my own self and that’s probably the hardest thing.

I suspect I’ll be conflicted about this for a while but in the meantime, it’s a spectacular movie and everyone needs to see it, and I’ll be good, and I’ll go off and read the book. One more to add to the pile.







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