Justin Lin’s film Better Luck Tomorrow addresses the stereotypes many Asian youths face in regard to being labeled as the “model minority.” Lin paints the life of high school Asian students as one of constant pressure and stress as they grow up in a cutthroat environment where not going to an Ivy League university is not an option. The four Asian boys seem to think that the only way to escape their monotonous suburban lifestyle is to commit small crimes and break school rules hoping to bring some stimulation and excitement to their lives. But how do they first go about this? Alan Dale makes comments on the BlogCritics Magazine website that “at first their crimes are in the model-minority vein--cheat sheets and, to a lesser extent, figuring out how to return computer equipment and keep it, too” (http://blogcritics.org/archives/2003/05/14/235250.php). Thus, Dale seems to suggest that although these Asian high school boys are trying to live dangerously, they still at least at the beginning adhere to the familiar stereotypes of their race. Further, Ben, Virgil, Daric, and Han use their academic decathlon meetings in order to plan their illegal activities. Dale notes that although they “use academic decathlon meetings for planning crimes and unhinged partying, they’re still a championship team” (http://blogcritics.org/archives/2003/05/14/235250.php). So even though they are doing drugs, stealing computers, and robbing houses, these boys maintain the outward perception of being the model minorities. It is not enough for them to simply be on the academic decathlon team, they must win and be the champions. Potentially, the team could have served as a total front for their criminal operations in which they could have completely ignored studying and non take the competition seriously. Instead, they continued to study and prepare because as model minorities, even if they were rolling in dough, they needed to academically perform.
Something else that Dale suggests that I didn’t really think about before is the role of (or in this case, the lack there of) parents during this whole film. From speaking with a lot of other Asians, there is the stereotype that the model minority Asian child is a reflection of their model minority traditionalist parents. However throughout the film, there is little discussion of parental pressures and I found it interesting that the film didn’t focus in at all on introducing Ben and company’s parents to the audience. I expected to see the interactions between the sons and parents, but these relationships were never shown in the film. My own assumption is that these parents were traditional and very strict, which might explain why Ben felt he must attend an Ivy League school and participate in dozens of clubs, but we will never know for certain. I wonder, did we really need to see the parents? Or was the assumption of who they were and what they are like so stereotyped and ingrained in our thoughts that it wasn’t necessary?