Why We Should Go See Crazy Rich Asians (and Everything Created by People of Color)
The entertainment world is abuzz about the recently released romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians. Apart from it being a good rom-com (who doesn’t love indulging in some guilty pleasures?), it’s more importantly the first major Hollywood production with an all-Asian cast that isn’t a period piece, since Joy Luck Club, in 25 years! It signifies a major step in representing Southeast Asian culture and the Asian-American experience in mainstream cinema and its reflection of the diverse world we live in – something Asian audiences around the world have been waiting decades to see.
In my work as a global inclusion consultant, I’ve been increasingly working to grow the number of people of color and women in entertainment, arts, and media, industries that continue to be highly homogeneous (reflective of white men in particular – manifestations of racial and gender supremacy). Through my multiple interviews, presentations, and more with leaders from these spaces, one thing that has become very clear to me: when it comes to entertainment, arts, and media, what we consume matters more than we may think.
The big decision-makers within these industries – broadcasters, publishers, production companies, record labels, curators, investors, and more – simply will not produce content unless they think it will be consumed by the masses. In making decisions about what content to create, they look for consumer demand and they often rely on past sales to make this determination. Because very little mainstream content in the past has reflected diversity, the historical sales data is fraught with bias. Or put a different way, diverse content hasn’t existed in the past, so there’s going to be very little data to support that there’s a high demand for it. The impact of this is very evident – very little diverse content makes its way to screens, shelves or walls or recording studios.
In understanding the decision-making forces at play, you’ll see that we have the power to expand our influence over content to better reflect under-served audiences. In the case of Crazy Rich Asians, for example, the opening weekend grossed $35.2 million, surpassing the $18 million estimate, reinforcing that there’s a great demand for diverse content on the big screens.
If we want to see more diversity in entertainment, arts and media, it’s critical that we consume content made by people of color, Indigenous peoples, women, members of the LGBTQ communities, and other marginalized groups. When I say consume content, I don’t just mean engaging by liking or sharing on social media. While these actions are important too, what's has more impact is to buy music, pay for subscriptions, go to arts exhibits, pre-order books, and go to the movies on opening weekends, because in these industries, money does matter. (I note that this means taking on a financial burden, which isn’t possible for some. Even doing what little you can will make a difference.) Simply put, the more money that we spend on diverse content that’s produced, the greater the likelihood that more diverse content will be made in the future.
I will say, this may place you in a spot where I am in, having a ton of books sitting on my already massive bookshelf that I haven’t read yet. I hope to get to them soon, but that’s not the point. I’m focused on the greater good here – increased diverse representation everywhere.