Grassroots Culture and High Culture

The film Better Luck Tomorrow, directed by Justin Lin, creates a work of art that acts on all levels of the cultural hierarchy spectrum. Better Luck Tomorrow, released in the spring of 2003, tells the story of a group of Asian American students and the criminal acts they partake in. The general story line of this movie is that the main characters fulfill the over-achieving, seemingly law-abiding, respectful stereotype of Asian Americans, while simultaneously committing crimes ranging from cheat sheets to the murder of another Asian American peer. The unique characteristics of this film allow it to take on a roll in grassroots culture, and high culture.

The consideration of this film as grassroots culture is both obvious and hidden. The obvious grassroots nature is the fact that the cast and crew that worked together to create this film is predominantly Asian American; the film was created by Asian Americans, a community that does not typically hold a lot of power. The more interesting grassroots quality that is rather hidden is the underhanded message delivered to the American masses through the use of historically appealing and entertaining themes. This film provides viewers with conflict, crime, sexual tension, and violence; these properties launch this film into the category of mass culture, as these themes are historically adored and popularized by the masses. The use of these themes acts as a mechanism to deliver a message to the masses by appealing to such widely enjoyed topics. The message delivered is a type of mockery of the Americans who hold tightly to the over-achieving, seemingly law-abiding, respectful, and academically inclined stereotype of Asian Americans. The Asian American characters prove that the joke is truly on the Americans believing this stereotype because all this stereotype has done is provide the characters with the opportunity to, figuratively speaking, pull the wool over the eyes of the communities they live in. Overall, the film acts as grassroots culture through the nature of those who created it, the messages it delivers, and the mechanisms used to deliver those messages.

Additionally, the film acts as a work of high culture as it presents a controversial platform for discussing hegemonic relationships in the United States. The main character, Ben Manibag, and his friends challenge the model minority myth that portrays Asian Americans as docile, law abiding, academics by using the apparent fulfillment of these stereotypes to get away with several crimes; in several different instances Ben explains that simply maintaining good grades earns them with the trust of their peers, parents, and community, giving them the opportunity to commit numerous crimes. The cultural implications of this movie instigate intellectual analysis of the way the minorities, specifically Asian Americans, are treated and understood in the United States. This film plays a role in many intellectual settings such as this course, for instance; in an academic setting Better Luck Tomorrow is an excellent tool for understanding discourse, hegemonic relationships, and model minority myths, supporting it’s consideration as high culture.

This film challenges viewers to understand the unique role it plays in society as a work of grassroots, mass, and high culture; this is a film, widely enjoyed by a majority of Americans, both Asian and not, that serves to delineate the Asian American stereotype through appealing to the masses and conveying a message in a entertaining, yet complex and intellectual manner.

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Better Luck Tomorrow advertised on MTV and assigned on the syllabus of a college course!

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