Being an Asian American is a conflicting battle in cultures and common senses. Simply being has furnished each and every one of us a very unique experience, something we all should be proud of.
Anytime I meet another Asian American, we would share laughs at the similarities of our respective upbringings, we would speak about common experiences growing up in two separate worlds; home and outside the home.
Our community has much to say and stories to tell. Yet in spite of all this, there has been silence concerning our distinct lives. Even today we are caught in outdated stereotypes enabled by popular media. Still we are the butt of discriminatory jokes perpetuated from a lack of knowledge, respect and interest. Simply put, save for martial artists, Asian Americans are all but ignored by the media at large and that’s a problem.
However, our under representation and ignorance is not solely Hollywood’s responsibility, we also have to shoulder some of the blame ourselves.
What have we as Asian Americans done to demand otherwise? We compose a significant portion of the population and have spending power behind us, but so what? What good does that do if we go on supporting films in which we are severely underrepresented and support products from companies that don’t care either way about Asian demographics. All this adds to sustaining a society that has little to no understanding of us whatsoever. We continue to fuel a fire that burns us.
“What can one do?” I’ve asked myself that question many a time and became quite frustrated. Creating social change seems too daunting a duty for any one person. This is the beauty of the situation we are in, as simple and effective as having no visibility in American pop culture affects us negatively; it works just as well when reversed. The most efficient channel of shifting societal attitudes and opinions are through popular media outlets such as music, television and movies.
In this case, the movie is Better Luck Tomorrow, a feature film being released by MTV films this spring. Better Luck Tomorrow stars an all Asian American cast as well as being directed by an Asian American, Justin Lim.
Critically acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival, the “controversial” film follows 6 Asian Americans’ plight through high school. Better Luck Tomorrow touches upon many of the stereotypes that we’ve all faced from one time or another, but it also displays other sides of Asian Americans, other sides that are more than likely unfamiliar to the public at large.
A couple friends and I were fortunate enough to catch a one-time showing of Better Luck Tomorrow at San Diego’s Asian film festival this past August. This is certainly not another Jet-Li-Jackie-Chan-Chow-Yun-Fat martial arts flick and that’s precisely why I feel it’s imperative that this movie does well at the box office.
This is an unprecedented move and will stand alone as such if the film does badly. MTV Films has much invested financially, but we have much more to gain if the movie does well – we will earn respect, demand future visibility, and generate much needed understanding. This is a golden opportunity to let our voices be heard without saying a thing. Money is the language Hollywood speaks and if this movie bodes well with ticket sales, we’ll soon have Hollywood speaking often on our behalf. And when Hollywood speaks, the American public will listen. Then think. Then understand.
I’m jaded from all those years being on the short end of ignorance, stereotypes and misunderstandings, most of which derives from our lack of representation. I’m tired of Hollywood thinking the only successful Asian/Asian American actors are ones that split pieces of lumber with their head or portray clichéd dragon-ladies. Moreover, I’m tired of the masses that follow suit. I want future generations of Asian Americans to be able to go without being asked “Do you know karate?” the way I have been questioned at several different times of my life. With that, it is also our responsibility not to let this movie fail
The cost of a movie ticket is all I ask that you donate. Not to me but to the movie theatre in which it is showing. See it once for your benefit. If you like it, see it a second and third time. If you don’t like it, buy another ticket for Better Luck Tomorrow and watch something else. If you don’t want to see it whatsoever, buy a ticket anyways and watch something apolitical like Drumline. I implore you, it’s that important.
As I mentioned before, society has a funny way of taking cues from what’s popular. As much as I like to deny that and trump my own individuality, I know in the end we all bow to societal pressure on some level. As for what pressures, it simply depends on the time and place in which you’ve come up; “Burnouts” emulated their favorite hair band in the 1980s, women requested “Rachel” haircuts during the late 1990s, and currently, kids of all colors follow and imitate African-American rap/R&B stars.
Our time and place can begin this spring. The success of this movie will give birth to other films about our community, films where Asians aren’t performing choreographed kung-fu moves or spewing proverbs. Instead we’ll have movies that illustrate who we are and the issues that affect our everyday lives. American society may finally take interest and embrace our experiences as they have with other minorities. And from there, respect and awareness will follow.
Not bad for $7.75 right?