Arts & Culture

Asians Represent: What the Cast of The Joy Luck Club Thinks About Crazy Rich Asians

Did it really have to take 25 years for Asians to be represented again in a contemporary Hollywood film?

A quarter century ago, Joy Luck Club came blazing onto the big screen. The film, which focused on the cultural differences between Asian mothers and their American-born daughters, became the first major Hollywood picture with a predominantly Asian-American cast.

Fast forward 25 years later, Crazy Rich Asians offers a view on the lives of contemporary Asians, while retaining the traditional Asian flair and background.

While The Joy Luck Club and Crazy Rich Asians offer completely different  angles on the lives of Asians, the two movies have noteworthy parallels. Both were based on international best-selling novels, by Amy Tan and Kevin Kwan, respectively. The two films had Asian directors, and had Asian-American actresses as their leads.

In Crazy Rich Asians, one will recognize Lisa Lu as the Young family’s matriarch, who in The Joy Luck Club, played An-mei Hsu, the mother of Rose.

Moreover, the song Wo Yao Ni De Ai by Grace Chang was played in The Joy Luck Club when young Ying-Ying attended a party with her would-be first husband, and interestingly, it was also played in Crazy Rich Asians, during Araminta and Colin’s wedding reception. Not to mention, both featured a mahjong scene, depicting the usual pastime of Chinese families.

The Joy Luck Club Cast on Representation

More than the aforementioned similarities, both movies lead the long overdue representation of Asians in the Hollywood scene.

In an interview with Good Morning America, Lauren Tom, who played Lena St. Clair in The Joy Luck Club, expressed how, at the end of the day, all that people want is to be seen and represented.

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Similarly, actress Rosalind Chao, who played Rose Hsu in The Joy Luck Club, finds it heartwarming every time fans come up to her to share how the movie  has touched their lives. Through these interactions, she said she realized that, “It’s about the community. It’s about sharing stories, it’s about sharing life experiences, and being represented.” Chao said she was on hold to play Rachel's mother, Kerry Chu, a part that eventually went to Tan Kheng Hua.

Ming-Na Wen, who starred as June in the 1993 film, also sings her praises for Crazy Rich Asians as well as the abundance of new Asian actors whom the movie introduces to audiences. "It’s always wonderful to be able to celebrate new Asian talents across the board, whether it’s just a token Asian in a film or television show, or an animated character," she told Deadline. "It is a big deal to have an all-Asian film to represent us and have it be contemporary and have it be a romantic comedy. I mean, I loved Crazy Rich Asians." The actress made an appearance on the red carpet at the premiere of Crazy Rich Asians.

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Joy Luck Club executive producer, Janet Yang, said she feels very grateful that the Crazy Rich Asians cast has been citing her movie as a source of inspiration, but she also feels sad it took so long to make another Asian film. "I think we had hopes back then that it would start - if not a whole movement, at least we would see a flourishing of other Asian, Asian-American projects. And that clearly didn't happen in a big way - but never too late," she said in an interview on the radio show Weekend Edition Saturday.


Stars of Crazy Rich Asians Express Thoughts through their Social Media

Actress Constance Wu, who plays the lead character Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians, shared a heartfelt message through her Twitter account. She conveyed her gratitude for the opportunity to represent the Asian community, and encouraged Asian-Americans to find their own voices to make a mark in this world, and be heroes of their own stories.


Similarly, actress Gemma Chan, who plays Astrid, turned to her Instagram account to express her gratefulness to have been part of this movement. In a photo with Lisa Lu, she described her overarching emotions to finally have been able to share their movie with the world, and said she hopes that this would just be the start of a more diverse representation of all communities.

Our film is released today. This is a photo of me and the incredible Lisa Lu, just before we filmed one of our scenes together for #CrazyRichAsians. Lisa starred in The Joy Luck Club 25 years ago - the last time Hollywood made a film with Asian leads, centred around a contemporary Asian/Asian-American experience. It's been *25. Years.* I feel so many things - grateful, proud, happy, emotional - that we have made it to this point and that we can finally share our film with the world. I know that this is just one film - one story - and that it can't be all things to all people. But I hope it is just the beginning. That it opens the door to more diverse, inclusive and authentic storytelling, not just from other Asian perspectives but any group which has been underrepresented in the past. That any young girl or boy watching it will feel that they are worthy of being the centre of their own narrative. That anything is possible. With love and thanks xxx P.S. If you're planning on seeing the film, please consider going this opening weekend (Wed-Sat). Those are the numbers that matter most to studios. P.P.S. Do stay for the end credits for a bonus surprise! P.P.P.S. Why not see BlacKkKlansman too ???????????????????????? P.P.P.P.S @jonmchu @kevinkwanbooks @ninajacobson @crashbpm @johnpenotti thank you from the bottom of my heart ??

A post shared by Gemma Chan (@gemma_chan) on

Just like them, we hope this sparks the start of a more inclusive storytelling and representation of all communities, especially Asians. Thankfully, a Disney’s forthcoming live-action Mulan, which features an all-Asian cast is already lined up to be shown in 2020, which means we don't have to wait another two and a half decades to see more Asians on the big screen.


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Pau Fong
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