The Effects of the Model Minority Myth

Better Luck Tomorrow is a film by Justin Lin in 2002 about a group of overachieving Asian American high school students who involved themselves in various criminal activities during and after classes. Through this movie, Justin Lin showed the audience the impact of how the model minority myth can affect people. Better Luck Tomorrow not only shows how the model minority myth can affect an Asian American negatively, but it also shows how some can take advantage of it.

Ben, the main protagonist in the movie, was initially portrayed as the stereotypical overachieving Asian American. He was a straight A student engaged in multiple extracurricular academic activities who was eyeing for admission in many Ivy League schools. However, upon learning that the coach of the basketball team kept him only because of his model minority status, Ben quit the basketball team. To deal with his frustrations of being only seen as a model minority, Ben decided to further disregard authorities by deciding to agree to create cheat sheets for Daric. This started a series of criminal activities Ben was involved in. As the criminal activities he was involved in grew more dangerous, Ben shows unwillingness to be more involved in them. However, his very deep frustrations ultimately allowed him to be involved in the final “job” of his group. Daric knew that Ben was frustrated of being labeled as token Asian American. Therefore, he used this opportunity to persuade Ben into joining the group for their last “job” – giving Steve his wake up call. Daric told Ben that Steve thinks that he is “dickless” in which Steve let his girlfriend, Stephanie, to be asked by Ben to the high school dance without fearing that Ben could take advantage of the situation sexually (Better Luck Tomorrow). Ben’s frustrations reached its tipping point when the group was giving Steve his “wake up call”, which ultimately kills Steve.

One of the things affected by the model minority myth is sexuality. In a study conducted by the Neuroscience and Human behavior department in University of California, Asian youth students face “unique challenges, which includes barrier to good communication about sex” (Lee, Rotheram-Borus). In the movie, Virgil showed some signs of having difficulties of communicating about sex. In the scene where the group hired a prostitute to have sex with all of them, Virgil overcompensated his perceived lack of sexuality by being “macho” and placing a gun in his crotch, which scared the prostitute away. Also, as an effect of the Asian stereotype where Asian men are seen as sexually inadequate, Virgil pulls out his gun whenever his sexuality is being questioned.

Most of the effects of being classified as a model minority are negative. However, some people can benefit from it. Daric, the class valedictorian and president of every club in high school, recognizes that people view him as a model minority. This allows him to see the benefits of his model minority status he can take advantage of. He also embraces the model minority myth which leads him to believe that Asian Americans like him are exceptional and that other people, Asian American or non-Asian American, will not see them as people who can do anything wrong. One of the ways Daric took advantage of the model minority status of Asian Americans is by persuading other Asian Americans to be involved in criminal activities. This started with him asking Ben to create cheat sheets. Believing in the model minority myth, Daric told Ben “I trust you” when Ben asked him why he did not bother to check if the answers in the cheat sheet are correct (Better Luck Tomorrow). Daric also took advantage of Ben’s status as a model minority. He knew that the coach only included him in the Basketball team only to serve as the token Asian American. Knowing this, Daric published an article about Ben and affirmative action through team sports. This led Ben into quitting the basketball team and ultimately involving himself into various criminal activities – which Daric benefits from.

Works Cited:

Lee, Sung-Jae, and Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus. “Beyond the “Model Minority” Stereotype: Trends in Health Risk Behaviors Among Asian/Pacific Islander High School Students.” The Journal of School Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.

Better Luck Tomorrow. Dir. Justin. Lin. By Justin. Lin and Justin. Lin. 2002.


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