The Harold and Kumar Odyssey Update

Culture and Media

After much anticipation, we finally went to see the film. And we weren’t disappointed. Kal Penn and John Cho were very good, had good chemistry and a nice sense of comic timing. The movie’s surreal journey through New Jersey, with a Krishna like Kumar and a reluctant Arjun like Harold, complete with harpies, sirens, monsters and beasts, was hilarious. I was surprised that the film actually had scenes about the racism of the police, rednecks trashing a convenience store (remember the Dot Busters”) and Asian kids as party animals, things one never sees in mainstream films.

The South Asian Sisters, however, don’t like this film.

They represented Asian American men as being homophobic, spineless, sex-crazed misogynists. They represented Asian American men as being homophobic, spineless, sex-crazed misogynists. 

This comment is very interesting when one thinks of Y Mama Tambien, another film that has a couple of young men who go on a road trip with sex and drugs on their mind. This film was universally lauded, and was a big art house hit. It is well made and a pleasure to watch.

However, in this film it seems the female character exists to connect the two male characters, especially sexually, first both of them sleep with her (feminist scholars have likened fraternity house rapes to homosocial rituals, that allow young males to connect with each other sexually,via a woman), and finally they sleep with each other. In the end we find out that they are not friends anymore and the woman who precipitated their union is dead. The film had to do kill” the female character in order to contain the homosocial anxieties engendered by the film. Which is pretty disturbing. Second, the backdrop of the story is peopled by poor peasants, whose picturesque poverty performs the function of giving the characters and the story a little more dimensionality. There are no threatening thugs and no racist cops in this film’s Mexico. Given these omissions, Harold and Kumar starts to look positively subversive.