Deborah Parker, Ph.D. and Mark Parker Ph.D.

Sucking Up

Sycophants in Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians

Lifestyles of the rich and fawning.

Posted Aug 09, 2018

 Publicity photo
Kevin Kwan
Source: Publicity photo

The publicity machine for the August 15 release of Crazy Rich Asians has been in full gear for months. An insouciant blend of Rom-Com and Meet the Parents, the film is being widely hailed as the first film in 25 years to feature an all Asian cast. Its principle stars, Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh have been regulars on talk shows and subjects of numerous online and print publications. Today's New York Times features an interview with Constance Wu on her make up routine.

The film is likely to ignite new interest in the trilogy. Crazy Rich Asians is the first novel in Kevin Kwan's best-selling the series: China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems are the second and third volumes. The trilogy offers an hilarious account of the jewelry, style and antics of the monstrously rich Asian one percent. Who else would pay thousands for an eye lift for a prized dragon fish named Valentino? The novels abound in lifestyle porn–porn for those who think they can’t be any more jaded by the 1 percent.

Kwan has planned his trilogy carefully. Each novel includes the elaborate genealogies of the three major families which populate the three novels. Swirling around the principle couple, Rachel Chu and Nick Young, are a constellation of relatives and friends. As money and power are the greatest elicitors of bowing and scraping, the novels brim with sycophants—among them, Victoria Young the ever- fawning oldest daughter of the imperious matriarch Shang Su Yi, Oliver T’sien Su Yi’s nephew whose lesser fortune obliges him to work as an antiques dealer ever ready to cater to his clients, or the trilogy’s chief sycophant, Edison Chang, Su Yi’s ever scheming, envious, and obsequious grandson.

Eddie’s over-the-top fawning is most evident in Rich People Problems where his antics are on full display at the sick bed and funeral of Su Yi. Eddie is convinced that he will become the principle heir of his grandmother’s vast fortune. To ensure that no other potentially conniving relations get near Su Yi, he lies and plots against his cousin Nicky, his grandmother’s favorite, schemes to be the first person to enter her room each morning, limits access through ruses and lies, all the while putting on lavish displays of his devotion to her.

These prostrations reach a climax at her funeral where Eddie’s uncontrollable wailing astonish the attendees, prompting the president of China to comment “What a devoted grandson!” Eddie goes so far as to rearrange the program for the funeral so he can sing and preempt his Nicky from giving a speech. Each maneuver is more outrageous than the last. He brings this carefully planned orchestration of grief and devotion to an end with the with the display of a $250,000 three-story custom-made tomb offering—a miniature recreation of his grandmother’s enormous estate whose walls are made of twenty-four carat gold leaf, the fabrics from Pierre Frey, the crystal chandeliers from Swarovksi and the tiny furnishings made by thee set designers for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. And all this to be burnt. Filial piety has rarely assumed such outlandish manifestations.

If Crazy Rich Asians proves the blockbuster success, its producers are anticipating, we can look forward to two sequels, the last of which will hopefully show Eddie's ludicrous displays of grief. But if you don’t want to wait—read the book.


Bee Shapiro, "Constance Wu's Beauty Picks Go Way Back," New York Times 9 August 2018.

Crazy Rich Asians official film site:

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