“Crazy Rich Asians” movie offers pressure and possibility, says UW expert

It’s not every day that Hollywood makes a movie featuring a predominately Asian cast. In fact, it’s been 25 years since “The Joy Luck Club” did.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is ending that drought Aug. 15. Based on the best-selling novel by Kevin Kwan, it tells the story of a dashing college professor who takes his girlfriend (also a professor) home to meet his mega-wealthy family in Singapore.

While there’s always pressure to deliver at the box office, the stakes are even higher for this movie, says Lori Kido Lopez, an associate professor of media and cultural studies at the University of Wisconsin.

“I wish it were the case that Asian Americans had the power to experiment and fail and still be able to try again, but unfortunately this is not the case,” Lopez says. “If the film doesn’t pull in huge box office numbers, we won’t see another movie like this for a long time. If it does, this film’s success can be used to leverage future projects for Asian Americans.”

As an Asian American woman, Lopez has always wanted to better understand the way that racism is perpetuated through the movies and TV shows and other kinds of media and how people can fight back against problems and make improvements. This led her to a doctoral program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles researching how Asian Americans were engaging with Hollywood. Her book, “Asian American Media Activism: Fighting for Cultural Citizenship,” is the result of this research.

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