Global Asian youth culture - Connected from Delhi to Shanghai to LA

Robin Brown
Environics Research Group, Canada
Joseph Chen
Unilever, Canada


Thirty years ago, North American teenagers flocked to the movies to laugh at a new comedic duo, Cheech and Chong, and a new movie genre, the "stoner movie". That generation may now have moved on but the genre remains stronger than ever and their kids are flocking to laugh at the similar exploits of a new duo. The jokes and enthusiasm for marijuana may be similar but one thing is different. While Cheech and Chong played up Cheech's Latino ethnicity, the new duo is a Korean American (Harold) and Indo-American (Kumar). This may not be the proudest achievement of the ethnic Asian population in North America but it is indicative of a significant shift.

While their ethnicity may contribute to some of the comedy it is not a dominant theme of the Harold and Kumar movies and is purely incidental to many of their young fans. And why would they place particular importance on it? After all, here in Canada the most popular current comedian, Russell Peters, is an Indo-Canadian, our leading male figure skater, Patrick Chang is Chinese Canadian and the office of Governor General was recently filled by a Chinese Canadian, Adrienne Clarkson. Meanwhile in the United States the same fans of Harold and Kumar are likely to be listening to the popular ethnically Asian dance group, the Far East Movement, and possibly being governed by one of the two Indo-American State Governors. It is safe to say that both East and South Asian personalities are such a well-established feature of popular culture and political life that it is unremarkable, especially to those under twenty who have grown up in that environment.