I’m still trying to decide whether or not I liked Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. On the one hand, it’s your typical stoner comedy: directed by the same guy who made Dude, Where’s My Car?, it’s two hours of drug jokes, fart jokes, boob jokes, gay jokes, and generally tiresome bad behavior. On the other hand, it’s Asians engaging in this bad behavior, which is new. Asians in Hollywood are so rarely allowed to be naughty, and it’s kind of a thrill to see a Korean-American and an Indian-American being such jerks.

Actually, Asian-Americans are barely allowed to exist at all in Hollywood. Generally, Asians are hyper-foreign-ized (there’s probably a better word than that) characters, with thick accents, silly costumes, and that “inscrutable” air about them that sets my teeth on edge. Asian-Americans, on the other hand, are typically invisible: all traces of ethnicity erased, they generally form a part of an interchangeable, Benetton-ish ensemble of racial balance that says, “look! We’re all alike! Really!” Which is code for, “look! We’re all white! Why aren’t you?” I’m never sure whether to be more disturbed by blatant stereotyping or by being wiped out of existence altogether.

Harold and Kumar, though, tread the middle ground between these frightening extremes. They stand up to the assumptions and stereotypes of the white characters around them, but never once do they say, “we’re just like white people.” Because they’re not. They have very common Asian-American anxieties about masculinity, family, work, and race. The best jokes in the film — the ones that ring true, and aren’t just crass poo humor — are the ones that touch on these issues in an honest way.