Tuesday, April 1, 2008

DeMything of the Model Minority

To be honest, my initial reaction to the film was not one of relief. I was not relieved that finally, the myth of the model minority was challenged by a film such as this. I was, instead, a bit frustrated by the image this film portrayed of Asian Americans. In my opinion, instead of broadening the image of Asian Americans for the general public, the image shifted from one of the ideal student (studious, smart, and obedient) to one who is bored, selfish, and overall criminal. Sure, the film touches on the surface of typical racial topics on the minds of numerous Asian Americans, and it is breakthrough in the way that it is one first Asian American film to be put into major distribution, but the message it brings about these young misfits is disheartening to me.

The film incorporates many stereotypes and generalizations about Asian Americans. They are smart, as obviously seen in each of the main characters: Ben, Virgil, Han, Derek, Steve, and Stephanie. Ben is used as the "Token Asian" on a sports team. He is not the star of the team, or even a starter, just emphasizing the Asian stereotype of their lack of athletic ability. Derek is even insulted for playing tennis, not a "real sport" These stereotypes and isolation of Asian Americans becomes even more evident in the discrimination described in the film. While crashing the first party, a "jock" insults the four main characters, insinuating that they mistaked the party for bible study. Further along in the film, the main characters themselves make racial jokes about Asian Americans. Steve says, "So this is where all the Asians hang out!" while Derek responds, "Yep, the library was closed." By bringing these stereotypes and generalizations into the film, is it helping to alleviate them?

There were also just a few interesting points of the film that I felt worth noting. Steve seems to have it all with his loving family, money, and good grades. He even has the girlfriend who all the Asian American boys envy. He however, cheats on her with a white girl nonetheless. Is it important to note that this girl is white, or is this a subtle detail of the film which should be overlooked? I think it has much to say about Steve's character. Another interesting aspect of the film is the congregation of the students. Sure, this is an Asian American film, but it seems to say something by the way they exclude themselves from the rest of their student population. Is this self-segregation?

For the most part, I enjoyed watching the film, but felt it didn't accomplish what it set out to accomplish in my view. If Justin Lin wanted to abolish the views of an obedient Asian American child, don't just show a group of bored Asian American misfits. I feel a diversity of students would be a better interpretation of the Asian American population.

No comments: