The Best Stoner Movie Ever Made

fourth year dhanur sapolia

photo by daniyal tahir

photo by daniyal tahir

Now that I have your attention, I need you to do something for me: please find a way to watch Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. I believe that it is your duty as an American to watch this amazing comedy that turned out to be so much more. The plot is that of a standard stoner movie: two dudes get really high one night and have some misadventures that lead them to learn more about themselves and each other. While the plot isn’t necessarily ingenius, the way that HAKGTWC normalizes and portrays the minority experience was groundbreaking in a world where the majority of lead roles are played by white people.

The two lead roles in this movie are minorities. Harold is Asian, and Kumar is Indian. Being an impressionable tween, I idolized Kumar. Here was a really funny brown dude who had a crazy hairstyle and didn’t care what anybody thought about him. This was a character who, although had a perfect score on his MCAT, bailed on his med school interview to get high with his best friend. He didn’t care that his dad (who was a successful doctor) would get mad. He didn’t care that that his brother was the favorite son. Kumar Patel was unapologetically himself, even if it meant that he didn’t conform to Indian stereotypes. He showed me that it was possible for someone who looked like me to not just be the ‘quiet, smart kid.’ That character showed me that I could be funny, creative and crazy as hell. Kumar’s character is also a great example of how the movie handles stereotype complexity. It keeps certain aspects of the stereotype (Kumar having a perfect MCAT score) and undermines other aspects (Kumar tearing a page out of his MCAT prep book to roll it into a joint).

Besides the amazing leads, the movie uses side characters to tackle certain stereotypes of other races. Between pointed commentaries about police brutality in the Black community, Asian stereotypes, casual racism and the American Dream in Bush’s America, this movie was before its time in holding up a mirror to the face of society, playfully nudging us to address so many deep rooted and engrained issues. Now I might be thinking too hard about a movie that has a scene where the main characters get high with an escaped cheetah and ride it through the forest to escape the police,but just because a movie has absurdist elements doesn’t disqualify it from having a strong message.

With movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians dominating at the box office in recent years, I think it is important to take a step back and revisit some of the movies that laid the groundwork. Back in 2004, this movie was a huge risk, and thankfully the risk paid off. We got a stoner movie that was so much more.