The conversation surrounding Awkwafina’s Crazy Rich Asians’ character Peik Lin Goh has been going strong between Asian and black moviegoers, with people from both groups accusing Awkwafina of donning a “blaccent” throughout portions of the film. Awkwafina was given a chance to address the controversy with Crazy Rich Asians co-star Ken Jeong during a recent Yahoo Movies UK interview.
“I don’t really take the stance ‘I’m from this,'” she said, addressing interviewer Hanna Flint’s point about Awkwafina growing up from a multicultural background, which was addressed in the documentary Bad Rap. The point has also been used by many to defend her style of speaking in the film, while others see that point as reductive, citing how blaccents are usually seen as commodities or a type of cultural costume. Indeed, in Lauren Michele Jackson’s Vulture article, “Who Really Owns The Blaccent,” she investigates what the blaccent means in culture, asking the question, “Is a ‘blaccent’ an evocation of blackness, or of something else–power, imperialism, commerce, the digital age?”
Awkwafina, thankfully, is open to learning more.
“I welcome that conversation because I think as an Asian American identity as a people, we’re still trying to figure out what that is. So I welcome the conversation,” she said.
Earlier in the interview, Flint brought up Jeong’s character Wye Muh Goh’s play on stereotypes by using a stereotypical accent only to quickly drop it as a joke on Constance Wu’s character Rachel Chu. She asked him if there were some earlier stereotypical roles he might have regretted playing, the subtext of the question relating to Jeong’s role as Mr. Chow in The Hangover series. Jeong defended his role in the series as another play on stereotypes.
“The thing about The Hangover…Mr. Chow is actually a meta-joke on the stereotype,” he said. “You’re actually making fun of the stereotype…You’re really making fun of (it and) playing it so hard that you can’t really top it.”
Jeong also said that he didn’t know if Wye Muh’s accent joke would be in the final cut of Crazy Rich Asians.
“It wasn’t really intentional and threaded out in the filmography of it all, there is that point where the audience is like, ‘Is that Mr. Chow?’ and then you’re going on talking without an accent,” he said. “Actually I didn’t know if that would make it in the film…but Jon Chu, a testament to him, he just really kept all of our improv.”