Does Crazy Rich Asians Mirror the Truly Rich World?

The Truly Rich Lady muses about the box office hit.

No need to remind everyone that, aside from being a box office winner that brought in $35 million in five days in the U.S., a soon-to-be series with a sequel in the works, and a worthwhile escape from the realities of life, Crazy Rich Asians is a big deal because it features an-all Asian cast.

(“But where are the brown people?” asks a report in The Guardian. “They’re bringing out the treats/ minding the kids/ cooking the food!” says my cynical friend. “SHUSH YOUR MOUTH,” I reply.)

The film, based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name, has been hailed by many as step in the right direction toward greater representation and the breaking of stereotypes in Hollywood. But what I am more happy about is how accurately it depicts what it’s like to be a very rich (East) Asian today.

So what did Crazy Rich Asians get right about the Truly Rich Lady? Is this movie a two-hour mirror of my life? And when do I get my very own emerald engagement ring? 

Spoilers ahead.

Everyone Knows Everything

The circle is small, the ears are big, and the mouths even bigger. It is very possible for news about Nick and Rachel’s Singapore trip to reach the other side of the world in mere minutes. Also, nobody forgets. Remember that when you're in the presence of the Truly Rich Lady.

First Class—Yes, Please

There’s this cute idea that rich people become rich because they are penny-pinchers, and while choosing what costs less is wise in some experiences (give me all grocery coupons please!), there are moments when spending is the only way.


So, for a two-hour jaunt, one need not fly First Class. But for long-haul flights, my assistant’s assistant will book that private sky suite with a fully-flat bed, and I will enjoy the perks, including the skipping of the lines, without guilt. Of course, taking the jet is best.

Gaudy Gold Is True

Ack! I have seen local versions of Peik Lin’s nouveau riche mansion here. The lady of one such house tried to pass off the mural on her dining room ceiling as real fragments from the Sistine Chapel! I nodded politely, left in a hurry, and then erased the contact information of this family from my phone.

Food Is Delicious Everywhere

The big secret is that we are always hungry, but only for the best things. That hawker food scene with our glamorous stars dressed in binge-eating clothes hits close to home because the Truly Rich will partake of the good stuff, whether it is from a five-seater Michelin-starred restaurant or a super secret stall along a side street. But maybe we will wear sunglasses or get the frog legs to go.

Shopping Is A Private Affair

You are truly Truly Rich when doors lead to a private shopping experience. I attest to Astrid's first-dibs jewelry spree, down to the very satisfactory thud of the double doors (closing to shut out the peasants who cannot afford what’s inside vault, of course!), but the previous clip where she chats up a stranger child is just unbelievable! No one talks to non-rich strangers in real life!

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We Love Free Things

I am sad because it is true that the Truly Rich go crazy over free things. I am also ready to hand over my membership to the Truly Rich World because, unlike many of my peers, I refuse to make a mad dash for a grab-all-you-can gimmick at a party like Araminta's bachelorette weekend. I have seen well-dressed ladies do this with full gusto! I weep.

Parties Are Beyond Belief

It sounds awful to say that wealth provides access to the best experiences, including a bachelor party on a freighter ship or an engagement party on top of the entire breadth of the Marina Bay Sands. But even a house party becomes a fantasy because, well, just look at my house.

Mothers And Girlfriends Don’t Mix

Whether Truly Rich or just rich, it is a universal truth that mothers and girlfriends will always be at odds with each other. And a Truly Rich Mother's excuse for her polite disapproval is the protection of her son from... the misguided charms of an interloper.

Not One Of Us

Unfortunately, the gates remain shut and the walls are built high for anyone who did not grow up inside the circle. Meanie Mommy Eleanor is speaking her truth when she alludes to the great differences between Nick and Rachel, because in real life, some things—actually many things—cannot be bridged by love.

Rich People Have Problems

Before you tell us to cry into our pillows of money, believe that we encounter real problems, too (outside of where to send our arowana for plastic surgery). What if your son brings home a woman with too much can-do spirit? What if you simply have more money than your husband? What if a relative is dating an actress?


Abs Belong On The Silverscreen

Where? Where are these Rich Bachelors With Abs that the movie paints as real? That’s just fantasy! Moguls are too busy tamping down expenses to take care of abdominal muscles!

All My Good Clothes Are In My Closet

Well, most of the times, the everyday clothes of the Truly Rich are not as glamorous as what were portrayed on the silver screen. I mean, maybe for a wedding, we will pour our bodies into an embellished Elie Saab, and even then it would be a quiet Elie Saab that feels expensive because it is made for our shape. But for a Bible study, I will be okay in a nameless overlarge cashmere sweater and a full face of natural makeup care of my beauty team. And a brooch the size of a small apple.

Things Are Settled This Way

Yes, yes! How we love to communicate disapproval without trumpets blaring. A simmering tension is key to all disagreements, and the one who employs the most elegant metaphors like the clackity-clack of a mahjong game wins. Which reminds me: I have to brush up on my game, and also build the emotional strength to let someone else win so I can make a point!

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C.C. Coo
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