The Fast and the Furious: A Review

Forget, for a second, about the exploitation of men, women and children in South East Asian sweatshops by companies like Nike and the Gap. Instead, let's turn our attention toward our own country, Hollywood and America's latest "f**k you" to Asians and Asian Americans -- a new film called The Fast and the Furious.

It was the kind of film anyone can piece together from the previews: Undercover cop infiltrates multi-ethnic import-racing culture; befriends the premier racer, also white; solves the crime; gets the girl; does the right thing.

My friends and I had watched these previews, and we knew the movie was bound to be problematic because while import racing was borne of Asian America, the main character was white.

We didn't necessarily expect there to be anything political from the film, but I must have had some expectation, because by the time the end-credits were rolling, I couldn't stop screaming, "BULLLLLLLLLSHIT!"

Import racing is as quintessentially Asian American as it gets. Take the American car-tuning tradition of hotrods and drag racing, like in American Graffiti. Now, picture Asian Americans doing the same with Asian cars.

Unfortunately, the Fast and the Furious contained no reference to import racing's Asian American heritage. My friends asked me, "Adrian, what'd you expect? It's Hollywood. They have to have a White-dominated cast or people won't pay to see it." That's fine, I thought. A white protagonist: I expected that. A white female lead: I expected that, too. No legitimate reference to Asian America: I'll admit, I sort of expected that also.

But that's not even the beginning. Not only did the writers and producers of this film leave out Asian America's conception of import racing, they completely vilified Asians.

In the film's subplot, Rick Yune plays model minority Johnny Tran. He and his mute brother Lance (whose face we get an extreme close-up of whenever his name is mentioned) are reduced to model-minority cold blooded killers. They beat up and torture middle-aged white men, cruise around on motorbikes, toting silenced sub-machineguns, blowing up cars and killing innocent, disabled high school drop outs.

What's worse, they didn't even put the evil Asian Americans in the Asian cars. Instead they rode motorcycles -- which are more typical of White America.

I'm angry because this kind of denigration is easily avoidable. They could've simply made one more Asian character, who the audience could have identified with. And instead of having Johnny Tran's character come from the rich suburbs, they could've made him come from the inner city. Don't they know: Asians have the fastest growing poverty rate in the country?

This film made me wonder which is worse: Paying my South East Asian cousins slave wages to make shoes and clothes they can't afford with a year's salary? Or stealing one's culture, calling it your own, perpetuating destructive stereotypes and vilifying the Asian race?

Adrian Leung is a recent graduate of Oberlin College. While he was there, he did a lot of writing for the newspaper. He is originally from Irvine, CA and is currently looking for a job in the journalism field.

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