The buzz for “Crazy Rich Asians” is getting so loud that, pretty soon, it’s going to drown out all of Hollywood. Before that could happen, of course, someone needed to find something to criticize about the film.

Last week, “Crazy Rich Asians” premiered at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre, and the actors took the opportunity to showcase designer suits and gowns — Constance Wu wore Ralph & Russo Couture, Awkwafina dressed in Reem Acra, Gemma Chan appeared in Oscar de la Renta and Henry Golding flaunted Tom Ford.

They all looked amazing, of course. With such a beautiful cast, they could have pulled off any fashion choice, even if the invitations declared pajamas as mandatory attire for the premiere (actor Steven Yeun did kind of dress for a slumber party).

“Crazy Rich Asians” is the first film in 25 years to boast a completely Asian and Asian-American cast, and everybody has been talking about what strides the film makes in terms of opening Hollywood casting to people of color. Why did it take so long for Hollywood to get to the point where people could be excited about a film that features all non-white faces?

And yet, inevitably, someone had to find fault. After the premiere, The Hollywood Reporter published a piece complaining that the vast majority of cast members did not wear clothing by Asian or Asian-American designers on the red carpet.

In her piece, Booth Moore writes: “[The film’s] castmembers [sic] have been using their platform to talk about representation in Hollywood, in publications like The Hollywood Reporter and others. Should they be obligated to use that platform to shine a light on representation in fashion, too?”

But the question is, of course, ridiculous. It’s amazing that that the film even exists with such a cast. Remember: Hollywood has a history of casting white people in black, Asian and Hispanic roles and whitewashing their entire stories.

The cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” is well aware that they are a part of something that blatantly strays from the Hollywood norm, and they are using the platform provided by anticipation of its release to talk about representation in film.

“I’m proud that my role is normalizing faces and not categorizing Asians into certain stereotypes,” said Henry Golding in a Vanity Fair red carpet interview.

“Asian men are sexy, confident, and passionate—and three-dimensional. We want the opportunity to portray roles that reflect who we are in real life. Kevin and [director] Jon [M. Chu] are making that happen.”

“We have been led to believe that this is our lot in life, that this is always going to be—for Asians to work with what we have,” said Nico Santos. “That we get only a certain amount of the pie. And it’s simply not true. We are choosing not to remain quiet. We can have the whole damn pie.”

The cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” is already using their heightened visibility to speak to diversity; it isn’t their job to single-handedly change Hollywood overnight. By expecting them to dress in only Asian or Asian-American designer clothing, it takes away from the power that they do have to enact some change. Plus, they all looked stunning, anyway.

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Cameron Andersen

New York University
Cultural Anthropology and Gender & Sexuality

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