This weekend, moviegoers surged into theaters across the country and catapulted Crazy Rich Asians to the top of the box office. The film, based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel by the same name, is a boon for Asian and Asian American representation and a cultural touchstone the likes of which audiences haven’t seen since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club.
Much has been said and written about the importance of filmic representation, the particular joy and beauty of seeing someone on a screen who looks, talks, and eats similar to you. I returned to my desk Monday morning to a slurry of essays (like this one from Alyse Whitney at Glamour), and initial reactions to the film and to its subject matter—but especially to its subjects.
Amidst all this wonderful thinking, I kept happening upon one particular theme: the importance of food in the movie. Perhaps that’s because my job revolves around food—and looking for it in all places—but more likely because the conversation was there. I just had to listen.
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Take, for instance, this article on Eater. It tracks all the important food moments throughout the film: a visit to a night time hawker’s market, elaborate feasts, a particularly poignant dumpling-making scene. Food becomes much more than sustenance, something that propels the plot, moves the story forward, and reveals the characters' every desire—and flaw.
Not only is the cast all-Asian, but much of the food featured in the film is Asian, as well. Here, representation extends beyond casting and onto the plate, a theme that carries over into the audience.
In addition to crowding theaters across the country, moviegoers are stuffing their pockets, bags, and purses with snacks. It seems a vibrant celebration of identity, of culture, and of home.
I first noticed this trend when New York Magazine staff writer, E. Alex Jung, took to Twitter to praise his roommate's ingenuity:
my (korean) roommate packed dumplings to eat during crazy rich asians and honestly where is her macarthur genius grant
For so many, Crazy Rich Asians is cause to celebrate—a chance to revel in characters and storylines on-screen that are often overlooked. There’s a beautiful symmetry in watching your culture represented while enjoying its flavors in real time.
Sure, it’s common knowledge that sneaking food into a theater is not allowed. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.