Crazy, Rich, “Hegemonically Masculine” Asians?

crazy rich asians

By Jane Hatfield

Although attempting to be progressive as the first Hollywood film with an all Asian cast in over 25 years, Crazy Rich Asians perpetuates traditional gender norms of hegemonic masculinity and femininity. The texts Everyday Women and Gender Studies and Gender Inequality help display the implications of the movie’s differing portrayal of both genders.

The bachelor and bachelorette party scenes in the film define typical gender roles as the men party, drink, and shoot guns while the women shop, gossip, and tan on the beach. At the bachelor party, the men are constantly surrounded by beautiful female models, all of whom sit around them or on their laps in tiny bikinis. This portrayal of women reinforces the belief that women exist only in order to appeal to men, to be seen as sexual, beautiful objects for the taking. As Judith Lorber explains in Gender Inequality, “one of the manifestations of men’s objectification of women is the male gaze, the cultural creation of women as the objects of men’s sexual fantasies” (174). The scene further supports traditional masculinity when one bachelor takes a bazooka gun and fires it off of the ship. Since this act of aggression and the use of guns is seen as stereotypically male, Crazy Rich Asians supports traditional gender norms. In “Racializing the Glass Escalator,” Adia Wingfield concludes, “contemporary hegemonic masculine ideals emphasize toughness, strength, aggressiveness, heterosexuality, and a clear sense of femininity as different from and subordinate to masculinity” (266). Through its bachelor party scene, Crazy Rich Asians perpetuates hegemonic qualities of masculinity and depictions of women as subordinate to men.

On the flip side, the Asian women in the bachelorette party spend most of their time on a shopping spree, squealing with joy at the thought of buying new clothes and products. The portrayal of characters Araminta, Amanda, and Francesca as product-crazy consumerists redefines the stereotype that femininity is defined by an interest and dedication to beauty. In “The Muslim Women,” Lila Abu-Luhgod states that America is “a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them”  (31). While reinforcing the idea that women are the primary consumer of beauty products, the film also suggests that women themselves are a product to be consumed, as evident in the sexualization and objectification in Crazy Rich Asians’ bachelor party scene. Further, when Amanda and some of the other girls leave a dead fish on Rachel’s bed with the words “gold-digging bitch” written on the mirror, Crazy Rich Asians perpetuates the stereotype that women are inherently bitchy and love to gossip, especially when it comes to their boyfriends.

Overall, whether overt or not, the differing portrayal of females and males in Crazy Rich Asians reinforces hegemonic masculinity, As Braithwaite and Orr state in Everyday Women and Gender Studies, “these are the characteristics of real men constantly              re-presented around us, in everything from popular culture (film, TV, music videos) to the workplace; indeed there is a long history of such representations of what has been called hegemonic masculinity” (311). Since the film constantly switches back between shots from the bachelor and bachelorette parties, Crazy Rich Asians helps to contrast and define what it means to be feminine and masculine.

 


Note: This essay was written by a student in Dr. Heidi R. Lewis’ First-Year Experience (FYE) course FG110 Introduction to Feminist and Gender Studies. FG110 teaches students how to examine, power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic status, age, physicality, and other social, cultural, and political markers using multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches. The students visited a local theatre to screen Crazy Rich Asians, and this essay was written in response.

Complicated Positionalities of Asian Women in Crazy Rich Asians

crazy rich asians

By Avia Hailey

This film is categorized as a romantic comedy, but as it delves deeper into societal and cultural issues it becomes so much more. The film begins with a flash back to an “old-timey” 1995 London. Eleanor Young arrives with her children, all soaked from the rain, to the hotel where she reserved a suite. They are turned down their suite by an all white, condescending male hotel staff. From the body language and speech that the staff give, the watcher is eluded to the fact that Mrs. Young and her family’s presentation, is the reason they are denied service (that being both their race, gender, and appearances). After watching that part of the movie I immediately thought about Judith Lorber’s definition of male hegemony in Gender Inequality. She defined it as “men’s dominance in values, knowledge, culture, and politics”. By denying the Young’s service, the male staff at the hotel were asserting their idea of the “ideal” customer for the hotel and then projecting it on the Young’s to make them feel lesser than. The irony of that moment is that the Youngs own the hotel (unbeknown to the hotel staff) so they are the ones that “truly” belong there.

As the film continues you are introduced to the main character Rachel Chu. She is an economic professor at New York University (NYU). Through a game theory demonstration she is able to show both her intelligence as well as cunning manner. Later on in the film the watcher finds out, she is a self-made women from a single mother household, that worked hard to get where she currently is. The character of Rachel is a prime example of feminist theories in action. For example, Liberal Feminism’s focus on deconstructing the “glass ceiling”. The “glass ceiling” can be described as “an intangible barrier that prevents the advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minoritized groups.” Rachel becoming an economics professor at a prestigious institution such as New York University is a direct result of feminist theory. Her story is a testimony to change and the deconstruction of corrupt structures and narratives.

Let’s take a look at another strong female character in the movie, Mrs. Young. She also went to a prestigious university, but instead of finishing her degree and becoming lawyer, she dropped out to put her family first. This was expected of her because of her culture and the family she married into. It was required of her to be a “dutiful” wife, and even at her best she was never seen as enough by the matriarch of the family. This idea of Asian women being dutiful and subservient to their husbands in not new. In “Interracial Romance” Kumiko Nemoto explains that Asian women are seen as “good wives,” because of the dominant narratives saying they are “submissive, subservient, passive, and/or hypersexual”. These characteristic in a women supposedly help reinforce masculinity, which is why Asian women are popular to marry. It is interesting how even after all these year males dominance over women and the pressure to be a “good” wife is deeply ingrained not just into Asian cultures, but in cultures worldwide. In the essay “Disability, Embodiment and the Meaning of the Home” Rob Imrie talks about the home being a potential place of repression and confinement for women. If we hold onto the hundred year old idea of women solely being fit to serve their husbands and their “homes”, then that is exactly what it will become. We need more Rachel Chu stories in the spotlight to help propel change. Stories that deconstruct structures within society that keep women below men.

 


Note: This essay was written by a student in Dr. Heidi R. Lewis’ First-Year Experience (FYE) course FG110 Introduction to Feminist and Gender Studies. FG110 teaches students how to examine, power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic status, age, physicality, and other social, cultural, and political markers using multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches. The students visited a local theatre to screen Crazy Rich Asians, and this essay was written in response.

Sexism at Sausage Party?

frank-and-brendaBy Claire Hotaling

Sausage Party has been repeatedly criticized for its racism, sexism, and somewhat disgusting plot, with some arguing that the filmmakers are actually critiquing the racism and sexism that exists in the real world. Along these lines, by analyzing the plot through a third wave feminist lens, the sexualization of Brenda Bunson, voiced by Kristen Wiig, could be considered a critique of society’s sexist treatment of women and their sexuality. In the beginning of the movie, Brenda and Frank want to have sex, but are afraid that the “Gods” (humans) will judge them harshly if they do. In food speak, Frank and Brenda will lose their “freshness.” As an attempt to satisfy themselves, Frank and Brenda touch, but “just the tips.” Throughout the rest of the movie, Brenda is faced with the guilt of allowing Frank to touch her. When bad things start happening to her and Frank, she attributes this to her sins. When viewed as satirical, however, Brenda’s experience is a critique of sexism. The audience is supposed to laugh at how Brenda thinks Frank doesn’t want her anymore after they’ve “touched tips.” In this way, the film is touching on the third wave feminist idea that women should be able to decide when and how they explore their sexuality, as Judith Lorber points out in Gender Inequality (305). By making Brenda afraid of the judgments of Frank, the film reveals to the audience that these judgments are absurd. The audience is invited to laugh at the idea that women can’t make their own decisions sexually, rather than judge women for their sexual decisions.

Rogen also comments on the guilt women feel after engaging in sexual activities. Throughout the movie, Brenda is faced with the guilt of her sexual encounter with Frank and becomes convinced that the negative things happening in her life are because of her sinful acts. However, watching this occur from the outside, it is obvious to the audience that this concept is laughable. It is simply societies expectations that are making her feel this guilt. However, by the end of the movie, Brenda has embraced her sexuality as she realized the only thing holding her back from sex are the social constructs arranged by the gods. If we consider Joshua Gamson’s arguments in “Popular Culture Constructs Sexuality,” Brenda can be seen as a sexual subject rather than a sexual subject (323). Sausage Party has received harsh backlash for its racism and sexism. However, when the humor is viewed as satirical, it is a clear criticism of racism and sexism in our culture, as displayed by the sexism facing Brenda Bunson. This may not be what Rogen was going for; perhaps he genuinely is a racist and a sexist. However, it is possible to see the movie in a positive light, but only when it’s seen as a satire.


NOTE: This essay was written by a First-Year Experience (FYE) student in FG110 Introduction to Feminist & Gender Studies taught by Professor Heidi R. Lewis. FG110 teaches students how to examine power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic status, age, physicality, and other social, cultural, and political markers using multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches. Near the end of the block, the students visited a local theater to screen Sausage Party, and this essay was written in response.

Video

The Solo Exception: The Implications of Categorization of Female Athletes in the Media

Hope SoloThis video, written and produced by Soren Mortvedt, Baheya Malaty, Gianluca Paterson, and Mary “Hollis” Schmidt during Block 5 2015, explores the various categorizations in which female athletes are pigeonholed based on gender norms.

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