Crazy Rich Asians Director Admits Fault After Colorism Backlash

Crazy Rich Asians scene in a kitchen surrounded by cooks

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Over the past five years, the entertainment industry has looked inward and engaged in difficult conversations. This includes pushing for a safer environment free from workplace harassment, as well as inclusivity both in front and behind the camera. Jon M. Chu’s acclaimed 2018 movie Crazy Rich Asians has been praised for telling a story about Asian characters, but there’s also been some backlash about colorism in the project. Now Chu has admitted some fault in the scandal.

Crazy Rich Asians featured a stellar cast of Asian actors, and has been universally acclaimed for its story and cinematography. While this was a groundbreaking moment in film history, some criticized that the servants of the movie were played by South Asian actors with darker skin tones, while the principal cast were East Asian stars with fair complexion. Jon M. Chu has engaged in the conversation, admitting he could have added new characters or fleshed out the servants in the film. He explained,

That's a lesson that I did not understand until it happened. I was like, 'This is a book that exists and I'm making this book into a movie.' I can't add a new character into this book.

While making sure that Crazy Rich Asians was an accurate adaptation to the novel of the same name, Jon M. Chu apparently was too nervous to make massive changes to the story. Upon hearing the criticism around casting for the movie, he’s seemingly thought about ways that he could have handled things differently.

Jon M. Chu’s comments to Insider show how much the film industry is constantly looking inward recently. While Crazy Rich Asians was in many ways a groundbreaking moment in regards to representation, others felt it was damaging to the South Asian population. And rather than fighting against this criticism, Chu is addressing how he might have fixed the point of contention in his acclaimed blockbuster.

Both Crazy Rich Asians and Jon M. Chu’s latest film In the Heights are currently available on HBO Max. You can use this link to sign up for the streaming service.

Later in that same interview, Jon M. Chu further went on to explain that he wishes that he fleshed out characters in Crazy Rich Asians like the servants, cooks, and guards that are constantly tending to the wealthy characters. He went on to spitball ideas, saying:

Looking back, I should have had a joke there [for the guards] being like, 'These idiots' [about the girls]. There's stuff to do to make them more human instead of just like these guards.

The conversation around representation is a complicated one. On top of focusing on the principal characters of a movie, one must also consider the message being sent by tertiary ones. And while Crazy Rich Asians is still a movie to be proud of, Jon M. Chu is seemingly happy to engage in the discourse and continue listening to other voices.

In the Heights is in theaters and streaming now. Be sure to check out the 2021 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.