When you talk about modern-day pop culture, I think it would be impossible for the name “MTV” to not come up in conversation. So I think it would be interesting to think about the projected impact of the movie that MTV was hoping for when it picked up the film from Sundance, and what may have been the actual influences on American youth’s perception of Asian-Americans and the model minority paradigm.
Just from my own speculations:
MTV’s target audience is teenage to college-age Americans throughout the country, and so for those who may live in neighborhoods with no/few Asian-Americans, this may be their first/new exposure to them. Perhaps in such neighborhoods, gang-related violence and sex/drug scenes that may be more common in suburbs near metropolitan cities such as LA may also be new, but that’s beside the point (and probably false). The point is that by deciding to take on this film, MTV, as sort of this mover and shaker of American popular culture, was endorsing Justin Lin’s attempt to non-stereotype Asian-Americans. It may have been that in reality, when MTV first signed up BLT, it was only “testing out the waters” to gauge what kind of a response it would get. It may have wanted a “different spin,” something that was fresh and new, and wasn’t really looking to change how American society and popular culture perceived of AsAms. After all, there are all the classic signs of another teen movie – college worries, girl worries, peer pressure worries, image worries – but this movie cannot be what it is without its all-Asian-American (main) cast. It isn’t true that this plot could have applied to any other minority group because Lin’s major goal was, as many people have already pointed out in their blogs, to shatter the image of the model minority, and in order to do so, the characters had to use and abuse it as a farce or a facade. That is to say, knowingly taking advantage of the model minority stereotype is to break that same stereotype while actually appearing to maintain it…(I think). Thus, having an Asian-American cast is very important as a selling point of the movie, and from having read that Justin Lin went into debt to make this film and that the actors were willing to delay getting paid made me think that all those involved in the film were really hoping that this film will be instrumental to bringing about a more realistic and truthful understanding on behalf of the American society as a whole of what it means to be Asian-American. As Lin said in an interview, "As an Asian American filmmaker, I wanted to make a movie that was real and non-apologetic, one that resisted the standard stories and stereotypes typical of recent Asian American cinema. I strove to create a film space that did not define Asian Americans in opposition to "whiteness,' but rather, to establish them as active participants in the ever evolving face of Americana."