The movie “Better Luck Tomorrow”, illustrated how characters in the movie were able to use the hegemonic ideologies associated with Asian Americans to shape the concept of perception vs. reality. Ben and his friends challenged the hegemonic reality by doing exactly the opposite of what is expected of someone who is seen as an example of a model minority. The characters are seen as subjects in the movie because they choose to defy the expectations of society. Expressing agency through the illegal activities they engaged in does this. Which is an attempt at changing the narrative people have about Asian Americans. The audience is first introduced to Ben as a straight A student with his sights set on Ivy League Colleges and his engagement in various extracurricular activities. By portraying Ben in this light the movie draws attention to Ben outward model minority lifestyle. Throughout the movie we see how the characters not only uses the hegemonic ideologies associated with Asian Americans to their advantage but also the negative impact that it had.
Ben is put into a box because of the stereotypes non-Asian Americans and Asian Americans have about him. Ben is initially seen as a one dimensional character; because of this it becomes unfathomable to think that Ben could be smart and also like any other teenager indulges in questionable activities. His reality is more complex than being the “Smart Asian” which shows that intersectionality is taking place because various factors shapes Ben’s identity. You can’t look at the fact that Ben is Asian American without looking at the fact that he is also a teenager. The audience gets the sense that the stereotypes and expectations placed on Ben is a form of entrapment when Ben made the statement, “It felt good to do things I couldn’t put on my college applications.” But along with these stereotypes he becomes entitle to a type of privilege by being a good student which made it possible for his actions to not be questioned.
The audience sees how the characters used stereotypes to their advantage but they also got to see how these stereotypes shaped Virgil reality negatively and how it impacted him. A terminology that is usually assigned to Asian American men is straightjacket sexuality. The terminology creates a vicious cycle starting with the assumption that they lack something. This is thought to be the case because Asian American men don’t necessarily fit into the category of hegemonic masculinity. Which is then understood as them being inadequate which leads to overcompensation in form of acting macho. This feeling is projected onto Virgil who in the movie is the sidekick of Ben and is often beaten up by his cousin Han. This perception of Asian American men became his reality and throughout the movie we see how he tries to change this perception. As the movie progressed we saw how the characters up their antics in the level of the illegality of their activities. First they were just running a computer parts scam, which progressed into doing cheat sheets to selling drugs. Virgil seemed to enjoy these activities and the sense of power he had established through them. Two particular scenes showed how power became like a drug to Virgil and how it enables him to show his macho side. One such scene is when the group arrived at a random party that was predominately white, and Daric got into a confrontation with a white guy. Daric pulled out a gun to proved that just because he is Asian doesn’t mean that he is a pushover. Virgil escalated the situation by proceeding to beat the unarm guy and experiences a rush of power. The other scene is when presumable Virgil is about to lose his virginity with the prostitute, and felt the need to demonstrate his toughness/macho side by pulling a gun on her even though it was completely unnecessary.At the end of the movie we see that Virgil need to overcompensate overwhelm him and he attempted to commit suicide.
This movie provided a valuable lesson in how a person reality is different than the perception one might have about them. We also see how the hegemonic ideologies about Asian American can be used to one advantage but might also have negative implication. Because it is easier to view an individual in one light, the danger lies in the inability to see pass the stereotypes or their identity markers in order to get a full view of that person reality.