When some Hollywood producer announces that they would like to adapt a popular book, well, typically that is pretty damn awesome. When they suggest changing the race of the main character….well….that can get awkward.
If you haven’t read Crazy Rich Asians yet, (and yes that is the title), it’s the hilarious debut novel by Kevin Kwan, and it captures the complex, shocking, and incredibly devious relationships in a well-off Chinese family. The main character, Rachel Chu, is an American-born Chinese woman who accompanies her boyfriend Nicholas Young to his home country of Singapore to attend his cousin’s wedding.
Kwan’s novel really delves into discussions of culture, race, and cross-cultural relationships. Culture is an incredibly important element in Crazy Rich Asians, which makes it in no way surprising that Kwan turned down an adaptation offer from a producer who wanted to make Rachel well….Caucasian.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kwan said that he was approached early on to adapt his best-seller into a Hollywood blockbuster and the producer (whom Kwan didn’t name) wanted to depict Rachel as a Caucasian character.
“That was their strategy,” Kwan told EW. “They wanted to change the heroine into a white girl. I was like, ‘Well, you’ve missed the point completely,’ I said, ‘No, thank you.’”
Me trying to understand the producer’s state of mind | Via GIPHY
I have to say, I’m pretty happy Kwan turned down the request. As if minorities aren’t underrepresented enough in the media, changing the race of a major character (in a book completely centered around Asian culture) is without a doubt whitewashing.
It’s not as if Hollywood has hesitated to whitewash in the past, particularly when it comes to Asian characters. Netflix has been accused of whitewashing multiple times over the past year.
Netflix’s adaptation of the manga hit Death Note garnered controversy after they Americanized the series, shifting the characters from Japanese high school students living in Tokyo to Caucasian students living in Seattle. In addition, the Netflix series Iron Fist was also the subject of controversy, prompting debates about whitewashing and racism.
Luckily Crazy Rich Asians has found a producer who will keep the authenticity of the novel….at least in regards to the race of the characters. Warner Bros. will be producing the film with Jon M. Chu signing on as director. The leading actors filling in the roles of Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young are Constance Wu and Henry Golding, respectively. Crazy Rich Asians will hit theaters in August 2018 and I. Cannot. Wait.
Featured image via Amazon/Stephen Gutierrez