This clip comes from the 1993 film Falling Down, starring Michael Douglass as William Foster, an unemployed engineer who “snaps” and goes on a rampage across Los Angeles. In this scene, the Korean store owner, Mr. Lee, falls victim to the angry aggression of Foster. Lee is insulted for his accent, among other things, and cowers in fear as Foster destroys his merchandise.
How does this scene depict a breakdown in communication between these two characters (the store owner and the customer)? How is this breakdown (which escalates to violence) related to racial differences and the way these two characters view each other?
Think about the idea of the “Forever Foreigner” stereotype of Asian Americans – what attributes of this character type does Mr. Lee exhibit?
Think about the different audiences that might watch this film – how might the makeup of the audience influence the interpretation of this scene?
For instance, would a mostly white audience of Los Angeles residents feel the same way about William Foster’s actions as an audience of Korean residents in Los Angeles? Why or why not?
This film received a good deal of controversy when it came out. Some saw it as a thoughtful exploration of the “Angry White Male” in contemporary American society; others thought that the portrayal of minorities in the film was offensive. In fact, the Korean American Coalition protested the film for its treatment of minority characters, especially Mr. Lee, while Warner Brothers Korea canceled the release of the film in South Korea after threats of a boycott.