The Crumbles as “Asians Who Rock”

In Greg Tate’s “Black Rockers vs. Blackies Who Rock” and in Oliver Wang’s “Rapping and Repping Asian”, both authors argue that a polarity exists between artists of color who make music about race, and artists of color who make music despite their race. They each conclude that in a white-dominated field, any nonwhite artist who wants to make it in the scene has two choices: to either exaggerate their racial identity as their entire approach to the scene (such as in the way Eminem is known as “the white rapper”), or to attempt to become well-known for their talent alone, thus deracializing their image. Akira Boch’s movie The Crumbles depicts a young rock band which includes two Asian American women, and the rest of the cast also consists of a diverse body of people. The Crumbles clearly exist within the school of artists who prefer to be known for talent over race, as they never discuss race or refer to it in their work, yet their lack of success within the film indicates that this method of deracialization takes away from their merit.

The difference between the film’s depictions of bands in both schools of Tate’s and Wang’s writing indicates that the strength lies with the artists who choose to flaunt their identity. A driving aspect of the film is the juxtaposition between The Crumbles and their rival band, Chicken Teriyaki Bingo, from which Darla was rejected from initially. Unlike The Crumbles, all of the band members are Asian, a fact which they clearly attempt to exacerbate by using the word “teriyaki” in their band name. Throughout the film they are mentioned in regards to their success. At the end of the movie, when The Crumbles are facing disbandment, Darla turns on a radio show and hears them being interviewed live – exasperated, she shuts the radio off. The band that has had more success is the one who chose to be “Asian Rockers” and flaunt their Asianness, while Darla’s band, who chose the “Asians who rock” category, is less well-known and eventually is broken up by Elisa’s lack of commitment.

Additionally, the film is drenched in flawed multiculturalism. While diversity of representation is important in movies, it is also important to recognize these diverse identities within the characters in order to address their differences. Multiculturalism attempts to depict everyone on an equal playing field when they are not, participating in the erasure of identities in the name of celebration. In The Crumbles, two of the main characters, Darla and Dante, could arguably be read as “ethnically ambiguous”, a popular term in today’s commercial industry. The problem with the increased visibility of “ethnically ambiguous” bodies in the film industry is that they are used as a promotion for the idea of a peaceful, “post-race” society. They are also seen as a commercial advantage due to the idea that they have universal relatability; in The Crumbles, there is an extended scene of the band playing their first big gig at a club, and the song Darla sings is named “Everything Girl”. Both of these concepts enable the erasure of racial problems.

The rest of the cast is quite diverse as well, and while the mere visual aspect of seeing these faces in a film is marginally helpful in terms of representation, the existence of the characters in a non-racial space again calls to mind this false idea of a post-racial world. As demonstrated in Wang’s research, even those Asian rappers who tried to move away from racial messages, such as Southstar, were still interviewed about being Asian in their field. Despite the attempts of racialized artists to deracialize their music, it is still not possible to exist outside those categorizations. The inability of The Crumbles to get off the ground with their music fits right into the idea that artists of color lose power through deracializing themselves.

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