It has been ten years since I first watched Better Luck Tomorrow and on its ten-year anniversary, the questions provoked by the film remain as disturbing as a decade ago. In this Comment, I re-examine the representation of the Asian American students in Better Luck Tomorrowand explore the interplay between two very different racial mythologies about Asian Americans: the virtuous “model minority” stereotype and the contrasting “yellow peril” metaphor. I discuss how the fear of being racialized as the “yellow peril” may inspire Asian Americans to embrace the model minority stereotype, and consequently refrain from cooperating with the police—a relationship already strained due to a lack of bilingual police officers, inadequate community outreach efforts, and a history of tension between police forces and the Asian American community. I argue that Robert Chan, the main defendant on trial for Stuart Tay’s killing, was not only undone by the trappings of the seemingly positive model minority myth, but was also hurt by his incompatibility with the negative yellow peril stereotypes associated with Asian American gangbangers. Unlike the stereotypical “at-risk” Asian American teenager, a spotless record allowed Chan and his cohorts to commit a slew of smaller infractions without detection—laying the foundation for their final deadly crime.
Too Smart for his own Good? The Devolution of a "Model" Asian American Student,
20 Asian Am. L.J. 83