How Cal State Fullerton got a shoutout in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

by in News

In theaters showing the new movie “Crazy Rich Asians,” audiences have been cheering at a shoutout to Cal State Fullerton, according to posts on social media.

When actor Ken Jeong’s character meets his daughter’s friend, he pretends to have limited ability to speak English. After stammering a few words, he admits to just kidding. Then, in perfect English, he reveals he studied at Cal State Fullerton.

Laura Sirikul, a CSUF 2006 graduate, was one of those audience members cheering at the mention of her alma mater.

“Crazy Rich Asians” goes beyond money and wealth to highlight universal themes about love, friendship and family dynamics, says Cal State Fullerton researcher Christina Chin. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Entertainment)

An entertainment writer for website The Nerds of Color, Sirikul first saw the film in April at an Asian influencer screening. She met Jeong this month at a comedy event related “Crazy Rich Asians,” where she asked him how her alma mater came to be included in the script for a movie she calls “a huge moment for us Asians.”

The Los Angeles-based actor shared with her that he had improvised the line. “It came off the top of my head,” she recalled him saying.

“You have no idea how many Cal State Fullerton people will be very excited about this,” she replied.

“I screamed when I first heard that in the scene. … I’ve seen the movie five times, and I scream every time,” Sirikul said. “I have so much pride in Cal State Fullerton.”

Sharing Sirikul’s enthusiasm for the Cal State Fullerton cameo in “Crazy Rich Asians” is Christina Chin, CSUF assistant professor of sociology.

“It was an added delight to the film,” said Chin, who last year co-authored a study about the lack of representation of Asians on the small screen.

Chin said the film speaks to second-generation Asian Americans. Commenting on that for the Washington Post, she noted that the romantic comedy goes beyond images of money and wealth, highlighting universal themes about love, friendship and negotiating family dynamics “that transcend ethnic and racial boundaries.”

Cal State Fullerton News Service contributed to this report

Where are all the Asians on TV? study asks

A 2017 study by Christina Chin, CSUF assistant professor of sociology, and five researchers from other California universities, said Asians are missing in action on all types of television.

Christina Chin, assistant professor of sociology (Photo courtesy of Cal State Fullerton)

According to “Tokens on the Small Screen,” only 4.3 percent of series regulars on television and streaming services are played by monoracial Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, lower than their U.S. population share of 5.9 percent.

In fact, 64 percent of shows exclude Asian Americans from their casts. Pacific Islanders are virtually invisible.

“Regardless of the viewing platform, audiences may never see an AAPI regular on-screen, effectively erasing the AAPI population from a large portion of the television landscape,” concludes the study.

But it’s not just a discrepancy in numbers, according to the study. Even programs with Asian characters typically give them less screen time and isolate their characters, rather than develop them through romantic or familial relationships in a way that viewers relate to.

Broadcast television is best at casting more than one Asian American per show, said the study, with basic cable and streaming coming in second and third. Trailing them is premium cable, where only two shows are cast with two or more Asian American actors, said the study. Asian Americans are missing from 63 percent of broadcast shows, 63 percent of basic cable shows, and 74 percent of premium cable shows.

The study calls these shows exemplary for developing multifaceted Asian American characters: “The Night Of” (HBO); “Master of None” (Netflix); “The Walking Dead” (AMC); and “Fresh Off the Boat” (ABC).