Episode 529: Speaking on Behalf of All Asians

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle “Crazy Rich Asians,” starring Constance Wu and directed by John M Chu.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather travel first class to a Singapore where minute ethnic differences are rigorously observed, but class-consciousness only ranges from the obscenely wealthy to the incomprehensibly wealthy. Food, game theory, and the lived experience of the Asian diaspora.

Spoiler alert for Crazy Rich Asians, but it doesn’t matter—listen even if you haven’t seen the movie.

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2 Comments on “Episode 529: Speaking on Behalf of All Asians”

  1. Mark Lee OTI Staff #

    Anyone interested in exploring further the split between collectivist versus individualist cultures should check out this article:


    Which introduced me to a different axis for thinking about cultural differences: tightness versus looseness.

    “Gelfand’s key insight is that “tight” societies care more and “loose” cultures care less about enforcing social norms…East Asia is collectivist and tight, and the US is loose and individualistic. But there are places that are more focused on individualism and they’re tight — like Austria and Germany and Switzerland — and places that are collectivist and loose, like Latin America and Spain. Plus, tightness and looseness varies by region of the country or organization or even family.”


  2. John C #

    Haven’t seen the movie, yet (going to the movies is effort…), but it sounds like it did a good job treading that awkward line between recycling a script with the cast’s ethnicity an afterthought and treating ethnicity as the central focus, which is good to hear after the attempted whitewashing debacle earlier in development.

    Aside, though: Constance Wu is great, one of the top reasons to watch Fresh off the Boat, but I hope she doesn’t become Hollywood’s single/default Asian actress.

    Wealth in romantic comedies is definitely weird. I’m tempted to blame the…”systematic misreading” of Pride and Prejudice. It seems easy to believe that the same people who don’t understand the jokes or the wide diversity of represented relationships in favor of some “true love” moral would also miss the part where Lizzie couldn’t care less who has money. But it could also be similar to that odd breed of sitcom about wealthy people. Money doesn’t seem to drive the plots or set the stakes, but seems to be more of a bread-and-circuses “people want money, so show them money” kind of mentality.

    (Also, whee, responses to comments!)


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