Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Better Luck Tomorrow, Harold

One of the aspects of the movie that struck me was the importance of the characters being Asian American to the movie varied. At some points it seemed crucial and at others, it was if they could have been played by actors of any other ethnicity. For example, the newspaper article on Ben or the confrontation at the party with the other “jocks” centered on the characters being Asian. However, the whole winter formal sequence with Ben and Stephanie could be any sequence from a movie about a boy and his unrequited love. Moreover, the movie has been discussed as a response to the model minority stereotype of Asian Americans. May I suggest a different reading, that of teenagers in the suburbs. The characters act more out of boredom and selfishness rather than trying to shed any model minority status. I admit that they are trying to shed an image but not one of model minority but one of “the good kid.” There is a scene during which Virgil and Ben TP a house; Ben’s voice over informs us that it is their straight A’s that give them a free pass. Admittedly, the model minority could be implied throughout the film but reading model minority in the film could easily be read as middle-class suburban teenagers acting out of boredom, which prompted me to recall the movie Bully (though Better Luck Tomorrow definitely had less violence). Furthermore, I responded to the characters less as representation of Asian Americans and more as “real” people. That is to say, I hated Daric because of his selfishness, etc. Nevertheless, the actors being Asian American does affect how the film is viewed (which in itself a concern…) as well as that there are important parts in the film that are intertwined with the ethnic identities of the characters. What I am left asking, then, is by having Asian American actors, does the added layers of meaning enrich the film or are they superfluous or somewhere in between.

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