Monday, July 27, 2009

Imagined Reality

After watching the movie 21 recently, I was intrigued by the story and read a little about the real life events on which the movie is based. The first thing I ran into was that in reality, the team of Blackjack players from MIT who made millions in Vegas by devising a system for counting cards, was predominantly Asian. In the movie, there are a couple of Asians in supporting roles on the team and not the big players that they were in truth. The composition of the math classes at MIT was no reflection of reality either with Asian students being pretty hard to spot. The Angry Asian Man has this to say about Hollywood :

As we all know, Hollywood studios seem to have a great of resistance to creating interesting, fully-fleshed, three-dimensional roles for Asian American actors. They seem to think we can't carry a movie, and more often than not, will instead create roles and stories for pretty white people instead.

For similar reasons, American desis ends up being caricatured as a cultural stereotype on the rare occasion they get to share screen space with the mainstream white actors in a Hollywood flick.

In the case of 21, I would guess there is a strong streak of denial as well. Denial of the disproportionately high math and science achievement among Asians in America. To deliberately under-represent them on an MIT campus specially in a math class cannot be attributed to anything else.

While cinema can present an alternate reality that finds favor with the biggest part of their audience (who perhaps want to believe this to be the "truth") it cannot extend it magic far enough. In real life, MIT's Blackjack teams and the composition of math, science and technology schools would remain predominantly Asian or Asian-American. It would take far more than wishful thinking to turn that into the alternative, imagined reality that Hollywood purveys.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite inaccuracies reported elsewhere on the Internet, the MIT Blackjack Team was only 15%-20% Asian and consisted of many players from other colleges and businesses besides MIT, including Harvard, Princeton, NYU, Berkeley, Univ. of Chicago, Microsoft, and Kodak to name a few.