arrisa robinson

Romance, Homogenized: Crazy Rich Asians And Cutlure in Rom-Coms

By Arrisa Robinson

As I reflect on “Crazy Rich Asians,” (which is FINALLY out in theaters), I can only think of the vast differences between family dynamics in this film versus what we typically see in most romantic comedies. But as I begin thinking more and more about these differences, it occurred to me: does race have that much of an impact on the type of families represented in these films?

Well let’s look into it! For starters, I sat down and binged-watched a bunch of rom-coms on Netflix, starting with “13 Going On 30.” Main character Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner) had a small family that consisted of a mom, a dad, and herself. Then I moved on to “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) and Ben Berry (Matthew McConaughey) both came from small households. Andie’s family was barely mentioned, but Ben’s family was made up of a mom, dad, uncle, brother, sister-in-laws, and a couple nieces and nephews. They were standardly nuclear for the most part.

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But then I pulled up some of my favorite rom-coms, which consisted of casts who were primarily non-white. I saw mom, dad, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, every unnecessary in-law, exes, frenemies, and everything in between. The predominantly black cast of “Guess Who” includes extended family members and friends. Even in “Our Family Wedding,” which features an extensive black and Latino cast, the various players combine to create one gigantic, chaotic family by the end.


But an even bigger epiphany came to mind: where’s the culture? This doesn’t even go for films that involve people of color. As I thought about what these movies had in common, I recognized this lack of culture in a lot of big romantic comedies. Sure, we as Americans have a certain stigma about ourselves but-sorry, not sorry-we’re more than that. We’re comprised of Africans, Chinese, Indians, Irish, Indonesians, Greeks, Pakistanis, Australians and so many more! And they all have their specific values and traditions. Even in films such as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” or “Polish Wedding,” their family units stand out because of what is culturally acceptable and what we all have in common. It's customary to have an overbearing mother or aunt who cares about who’s marrying who, a host of cousins who intrude on every aspect of your life, or that one aunt and uncle who take their nieces or nephews under their wing like they were their own.

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Ultimately, I realized that Hollywood didn’t fail at having more families in its romantic comedies. What Hollywood has failed to do was have more culture. Americans are composed of a staggering amount of races and ethnicities, and it ought to be fair to represent them rather than homogenize them on the big screen. So seeing a film out like “Crazy Rich Asians” openly express how Asian-American culture is represented makes a hell of a difference in Hollywood and in our society. There hasn’t been a primarily Asian cast in theaters since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club” 25 years ago. So if you were wondering why everyone is emphasizing why representation matters, just remember...25 years. That’s why.

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Sure, romantic comedies are supposed to be light and cheery, and by all means, they should continue to be. But here in the great US of A, white people are not the only people in this country. America consists of different shades, cultures, traditions, and values, and they should all be represented and accounted for. Making it to Hollywood is one thing, but Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, America Ferrera, Lance Gross, Zoe Saldana, Lena Olin, and Nia Vardalos all represent the diversity that make America America. Hollywood embracing that is just another step towards getting acquainted with our neighbors, and we have plenty of them. I hope to see more films with more people of color, races, ethnicities, sexualities and genders coming to theaters soon. Because it definitely matters.

'Women's Edit' Of This Is America Video Is Classic, Cringeworthy White Feminism

By Arrisa Robinson

As I watched Nicole Arbour’s “women’s edit” of Donald Glover’s (stagename Childish Gambino) “This is America,” one question repeatedly occurred to me…

“Why is she doing this?”

Even after I watched it, the question still lingered. Throughout, Arbour’s message focused primarily on issues women face today. However, she conveyed a much larger message to the audience: the problems inherent in white feminism.

After Childish Gambino’s latest music video “This Is America” was released, critics swarmed him with praise for its artistic yet political statements on America’s most controversial issues. Glover managed to not only create a catchy tune just in time for summer, he showcased the extensive cruelty suffered by black people in America. The video for “This Is America” was more an expression of America’s chaotic past and its disastrous effects on the present. And Glover offered an insightful perspective on the many topics he touched on.


Nicole Arbour, however, managed to singlehandedly erase everything Glover established and draw attention to an issue that wasn’t even on the radar (at the moment anyway), that of disregarding the harm done to women of color and focus solely on the issues an average white woman has. There were plenty of other topics Arbour could’ve touched on but didn’t. Today, black women have to worry about being pulled over and killed by police officers. Or consider all the Native American women who have vanished just over the past few years. Or the human trafficking of girls throughout the U.S. Breastfeeding, aging and trying to shatter the glass ceiling in the workplace are hardly the biggest issues right now for most women of color.  

This is classic “white feminism,” which refers to the ignorance white women have concerning issues related to minorities. We as a society see this happen from time to time through not fully acknowledging the women who struggle with racism, sexism, or ageism, to neglecting to discuss the ways in which the words of a white woman words can be disruptive to women of color. For instance, there was Lena Dunham’s oblivious response to her former colleague, Murray Miller, after he was accused of sexual assault by actress Aurora Perrineau. Dunham is a self-proclaimed feminist as well as an extremely wealthy woman, and Perrineau is a black woman with a much lower profile than Dunham. Dunham’s ignorant response made via her Twitter page was seen as a hypocritical and disrespectful tactic to brush off a black woman. Another instance would be Rose McGowan very nonchalantly stating that being called a woman is as bad as being called the n-word...because that’s apparently not offensive to the people that are women and also black.

So why is this such a problem for us?

Whether or not Nicole Arbour had good intentions (which she probably did), her way of spreading her message was utterly ignorant, to say the least. For starters, Arbour discredited the magnificent and purposeful work of an artist by appropriating his work. As an African-American woman myself, this was something I did not appreciate, because I know firsthand that black people already have to work twice as hard as the average white person to get even half the recognition. White people have a distinct privilege in this country, whether it’s being 21 times less likely to be shot and killed by police than black people (The New Progressive) or being 78% more likely to be accepted to a university than a black student (The New Progressive). Even for me, going to college is a tremendous accomplishment, whereas some of my peers take it for granted. So obviously, whatever it is that we, as black people, do is a big deal for us because we’ve fought to overcome statistics to be recognized for something positive.


But appropriating black culture-or even other cultures-is something a lot of white women do. Just look at Katy Perry, who has appropriated both Japanese and black culture. Instead of anger, I feel more curiosity as to what American culture represents to Americans, and why there is a trend of copying others. While we are notorious for being the land of the free, there are still some of us who do not accept the actual people behind the cultures. Perry’s actions were just a slap in the face, because she chose to acknowledge only a certain aspect of a specific culture by imitating them, and not even involving the people within it.

Nicole Arbour is not the first white woman to step on the toes of a minority, but she is adding to the problem. She could’ve used this opportunity to discuss injustices faced by African-American, Native-American, or Latin/Hispanic-American women rather than just her own.

When confronted with the backlash, Arbour was initially defensive, but eventually she disabled all comments to prevent further discussion. This inability to discuss why her video was such an infuriating topic for some is also another common aspect of white feminism. By not discussing the main issue at stake and instead becoming self-justifying and stubborn to any opinion different from her own, she revealed herself to be another person who is unable to discuss racial issues. Even through a virtual apology captured by TMZ, Arbour seemed anything but genuine or affected by the feelings of others about her appropriating Glover’s work to focus on her own issues. It reminded me of Lena Dunham’s and Rose McGowan’s apologies. Both were issued virtually, but did the backlash actually have an impact on these women? Did they actually change their mindsets for the better? It’s hard to tell nowadays, even though so many people share their thoughts and feelings via social media.When it all comes down to it, how do you know if they are actually affected? For Arbour, all she had to do was say “Sorry!” and move on with the rest of her night. She’d gotten her spotlight, even if itt had to be through a poor execution of someone else’s spectacular piece of art.


Arbour may think the responses of others to be cruel or downright annoying. Maybe she believes we should just “get over it” as so many other people in her exact position have told us to do. Or perhaps she truly cares about how she is being portrayed and would like to clarify that she does not think less of other races. In either scenario, it does not change the fact that she put her heart and soul into a cringeworthy cover video fully displaying her white feminism all over the Internet and sloppily offered an insincere apology.

Nicole Arbour will not be the last white feminist to cross our screens, and she’ll most likely continue to do it, since she doesn’t consider her behavior harmful. And if on several occasions, a woman with so much privilege sees no wrongdoing in her actions even after they provoke audiences of particular demographics, then we have a much larger issue on hand. But then again, should we really expect much? This is America, after all.