Stereotypes sometimes are based on a kernel of truth, but they're twisted and blown out of proportion and used out of context. Sometimes, stereotypes can even be "good" in that they're not negative images. But trust me, a stereotype is still a stereotype. It's a generalization that's not universally true, and even the good ones are impossible to live up to.
Asian Americans are very familiar with the stereotype of the "model minority." It goes like this: Asian Americans are smart, quiet, dependable, hard-working and never complain. Asian American kids are smart, quiet, straight-A students, play classical music on instruments like piano, cello and violin, and never complain.
It's all hogwash, of course... but it's based on that kernel of truth.
Asian Americans were known for a hundred years for successfully assimilating into mainstream American society. It never completely worked because we could never be accepted racially into the mainstream like European Americans could, but Asian immigrants and their families worked hard to become economically successful in America.
But a brand-new report published by New York University, the College Board and Asian American educators and community leaders found that the idea of "model minority" is a myth, and that the APA (Asian Pacific American) population is as diverse and no more homogeneous than the rest of America.
â€œCertainly thereâ€™s a lot of Asians doing well, at the top of the curve, and thatâ€™s a point of pride, but there are just as many struggling at the bottom of the curve, and we wanted to draw attention to that,â€ said Robert T. Teranishi, the N.Y.U. education professor who wrote the report, â€œFacts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight.â€
The characters Harold and Kumar, played by APA actors John Cho and Kal Penn, are like embarassing uncles who fart in public and cuss and tell stupid jokes. In fact, in lots of ways, Harold and Kumar are stupid jokes.
But like those uncles, you have to embrace them when you see them, even though you wince every time they walk in the room.
That's because in their 2004 debut, Cho and Penn's characters smashed Asian American stereotypes about being the model minority. Cho played Harold, an earnest numbers-cruncher by day who has the hots for a hot neighbor and has the internalized heart of a slacker; Penn's Kumar is the slacker externalized. He's a pot-hound and horndog and crude as he can be, always trying to drag Harold into his slackdom. Kumar is supposed to become a doctor, and it turns out he's quite capable, except he's pathologically incapable of following his ethnically preordained career path.
The two go on a marijuana binge and seek out a White Castle burger, or more accurately, a whole bunch of 'em, to assuage their munchies. (It helps to understand the plot if you've enjoyed the strange pleasures of a tiny White Castle "slider.")