Table of contents
- Introduction to 'Crazy Rich Asians' and Its Cultural Context
- Rachel Chu's Journey: Love and Cultural Clash
- Eleanor Young's Resistance and Family Dynamics
- Descriptive Norms
- Descriptive Norms and Social Expectations in 'Crazy Rich Asians'
- Injunctive Norms: Behavioral Expectations and Acceptance
- Conclusion: The Role of Norms in Society and Personal Relationships
Introduction to 'Crazy Rich Asians' and Its Cultural Context
This movie analysis is based on ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ movie that come out last year in 2018. It produces by Jon M. Chu, a Singapore producer based on novel with the title ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ wrote by Kevin Kwan in 2013 (Jose, 2018). The main actor of this film was starred by Henry Goulding as Nicholas Young, while the actress was Constance Wu as Rachel Chu.
Rachel Chu's Journey: Love and Cultural Clash
This movie is about Rachel Chu, an economics professor at New York who growing up in New York with her mother alone. She then falls in love with Nicholas Young, one of the top ten richest families, whose family is very concerned with their culture and humble. Rachel only knows a few information about Nicholas family until the day they departed from New York to Singapore to accompany her boyfriend to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore, she learns that Nicholas’s family is not like what she imagines at the first place. When they arrived there, they stayed at hotel since Nicholas’s mom not allowing him to bring his girlfriend home. After that, Rachel Chu went to visit her friend Peik Lin’s house. She is Rachel college friend who help Rachel to face her boyfriend family by being a stylist for Rachel after she knows who Rachel boyfriend is.
Eleanor Young's Resistance and Family Dynamics
Being raised as a humble person and very low profile, Nicholas thought his family will easily accept Rachel Chu. However, things become complicated when his mom, Eleanor Young who act by Michelle Yeoh cannot accept Rachel into her family as she is controlling and too obsessed with prestige and pride. As she was once trying very hard to adapt and being accepted by her family in laws, she against the relationship between her son and Rachel Chu as she thought Rachel’s family is not comparable with hers. Not only that, she firmly mentioned that Rachel is not good enough for Nick. She added by showing the ring her husband give her was made only because Nick’s grandmother does not approve Eleanor as her daughter in laws in the family.
After several drama’s happen during Rachel Chu visit to Nick’s house, she then decides to leave Singapore with a broken heart with her mom, who come to take her in Singapore after hearing what had happened from Nicholas Young. When she is preparing to es back and ride on an airplane, Nicholas come and proposed to her with her mother rings that make Rachel touch and accept the proposal on the plane.
In short, Nichola’s mother has accepted Rachel Chu as her daughter in-law after Rachel meet her at mahjong shop and explained that she does not want to be the reason for Nicholas to leave his family. She then goes back and has a talk with Nicholas and give him her rings as a prove that she accepts Rachel wholeheartedly to become part of her family.
Fritz mentioned that norm is something that can be considered as normal. Norm is an unwritten rule or guideline but is different according to social class or level. For example, people who live in Beverly Hills is likely to have different norms than a farmer. Not only that, it is also different based on countries, like for some countries shaking hand is normal between people different gender, but in some countries, it is not. According to Kitts and Yen (2008), descriptive norms is known as a typical pattern of behavior, usually it is accompanied by the expectation that people will behave according to the pattern in which behaviors of others’ behavior. These norms are based on observations of those around you.
Based on the movie, there are several descriptive norms that can be seen that act by the actor. First part is, when Nicholas Young talks about his family to Rachel Chu in flight before they depart to Singapore. He told her about his cousin, Alistair Cheng, who in love with soap opera star, Kitty Pong. In that scene for 13 minutes and 20 second, the producer having a conversation between them talking about how bad Kitty Pong acting in their movie. But then they conclude that, they need to continue although they are not satisfied with their end product. This is because Alistair are the one who sponsor their movie, so they need to follow Alistair wish to hire his girlfriend as a main role.
Descriptive Norms and Social Expectations in 'Crazy Rich Asians'
This clearly shows a descriptive norm where there is no unspoken role saying that those who pay for a big share have big voice to decide although it is not under his field to do that. As we can see nowadays, who pays more will gain more. People will let one who pays a lot of money decide and respect them. Sometimes they only fake the respect because it is not him that people respect, but his money that people like. Alistair who known having a blood relation with Nicholas Young are respected by people around him because of his wealthy families that is popular in Singapore. Anyone who get to have social networking with him, might easily get to taste his richness and it make it easier to get what he wants without having to put much effort in it.
Next, the scene when Rachel Chu followed Nicholas Young to learn how to make dumplings is his grandma house. She not only learns how to make dumplings, she tries her best to feel included in the family where she knows that making dumplings is a tradition in the family. So, by looking at other, she tries making dumplings and have a conversation with Nicholas’s families. This part shows a descriptive part where she observes how well Nicholas’s family get together between each other while doing dumplings and put her effort into making it and talk about how she loves to have a big family to spend time together like this.
For Nicholas’s families, it is a norm for them to learn how to make dumplings from scratch as it is one way to protect their culture. This is because only when they do it together, they can strengthen their bond as they are having a good time and a good laugh with families. However, for Rachel Chu, the dumpling learning makes she realize that Eleanor Young cannot accept her in the family. Eleanor learns from the past, from her own experience on how Ah Ma does not choose her either for first or second choice as an in law to Young’s families, so she used the same reason which is because she is not coming from the right family and have no connection for not accepting Rachel Chu to be one of her families.
Thus, it is clearly shown the descriptive norm in Alistair cases, Rachel Chu situation and Eleanor behavior where they observed the action from others behavior and tend to follow it as it is expected to behave according to the pattern of other’s behavior.
Injunctive Norms: Behavioral Expectations and Acceptance
Injunctive norms are a behavior that is perceived and being approved by other people or what we supposed to do in any situation (Prentice, n.d). Injunctive norms are a guidance of behavior of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. In ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ movie, injunctive norm that can be point out is the scene when Rachel Chu come to Nicholas’s grandma house. The behavior of Rachel Chu when she meets each person of Young’s family shows the descriptive behavior. First, when Nicholas Young bring Rachel Chu to meet his mom, Rachel goes and hug his mom like what American usually did. In Asia, it is not appropriate to just hug someone that we are not close with especially people older than our ages. The reaction shown from Eleanor Young told us that she is uncomfortable with that gesture. As people who living as a first-class people, it is important to mind the gap and always being careful to maintain courtesy no matter where they go.
As we can see in the movie, the older from high class level use a small gesture and classy way in their daily life activities. They do not shout even when they are angry. They tried to control their action so that they will be respected. Next, when Rachel Chu meet Nicholas’s aunties, she started to be careful in her greetings ways and not just hug them as what she did with Nick’s mom. It shows that although she is Chinese, their culture is different since they are growing up in different places practicing different culture. By doing mistakes at the first places, she learns quickly how Asians culture is different even in small things or an act.
Next, the scene when Rachel goes to Araminta’s bachelorette party, when going back from spa after being bullied by Araminta’s friends, she found a dead fish on her bed with a text saying she is a gold digger and so on. She is expected to make a scene and calling guard, or the least is having a mental breakdown for this is the first time she meets those people. But as a grown up and a matured woman, she knows better what she supposed to do. So instead of making any report toward the mean girl, she chooses to settle it in the cool ways. Which is by cleaning her bed by herself with the help of Nicholas’s sister, Astrid played by Janice Koh.
The action taken by Rachel Chu is considered as acceptable since she is new there. Not having anyone by her side except Astrid. If only she plays along and act like what she expected to, there will be many problems exist afterward. Not only that, as she is one who is not belong in the higher class, it is easier for them to eliminate her existence and will make her reputation bad in front of Nicholas’s mom who already does not like her at the first place. She is doing the right thing. In the end, everything become as what they want it to be, Rachel is being accepted by Eleanor and it end with both of them celebrated their relationship with Nicholas’s mother approval.
Conclusion: The Role of Norms in Society and Personal Relationships
In conclusion, descriptive and injunctive norms have been practiced long time ago. Where at that time, different tribe have their own culture and can be considered mores when one breaks the unspoken rules. Like in Rachel Chu situation, where she struggling to understand the culture of Nicholas families. It is not forbidden by the society to commit some differences, but it will cause some negative effects towards the performers, like what had happened during the greetings of Rachel Chu and Nicholas’s mom Eleanor. In short, descriptive and injunctive norms always happen in our daily lives. Either we realize it or not, only those who observed will realized it.
- Fritz, R. (n.d.). Injunctive and Distinctive Group Norms. Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/lesson/injunctive-and-descriptive-group-norms-definitions-differences-examples.html
- Jose, M. (2018, August 17). The Real-Life Story of Kevin Kwan That Inspired 'Crazy Rich Asians'. Retrieved from https://my.asiatatler.com/life/crazy-rich-asians-author-kevin-kwan.
- Kitts, J. A., and Yen, S. Chiang, (2008). Norms. Encyclopedia of Social Problems, Vincent Parillo, Editor, New York: Sage Publication.
- Prentice, D. A. (n.d.). Norms, Prescriptive and Descriptive. Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. doi:10.4135/9781412956253.n376