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"What the fuck is a car? Asian kryptonite?"
The stereotype that Asians are bad drivers.
If it is to be believed, Asians simultaneously drive too fast and
too slow, supposedly due to their eyes not being wide enough to see all of the road.
In Real Life
, this may have something to do with lax traffic laws in Asian countries and the fact that widespread automobile ownership in Asian countries is a new phenomenon for millions of people whose parents could only dream of driving a car. The result is that many of the defensive driving training and techniques developed and stressed in the west have not yet been as widely adapted in Asia. Finally, probably as a result of the workaholism encouraged by many Asian cultures, they are generally in a hurry.
The stereotype being used on Asians outside of Asia likely has to do with anti-immigrant prejudices. In the US, it doesn't help that some of the prominent Asian immigrant communities are in California
, New York
and New Jersey
, three states where the populations in general have reputations (backed by GMAC Insurance's annual study
, no less) for being terrible drivers
regardless of race. This likely means the Asian immigrants are convenient scapegoats for traffic accidents.
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Anime and Manga
Film - Live Action
- In the Nicolas Cage film Gone In Sixty Seconds 2000, one of the team members is now a driving instructor, and his most hopeless student is an Asian woman. It's plain insulting.
- Hikaru Sulu accidentally leaves the external inertial dampers (aka, the "Parking Brake") on the Enterprise in Star Trek XI. Luckily, this mistake saves the Enterprise by causing them to arrive late to Vulcan, preventing them from being obliterated like the rest of the fleet by Nero.
- This would be a more impressive example of a stereotype if it weren't for Kirk's ridiculously bad driving in the Star Trek TV Episode "A Piece of the Action," and the fact that Sulu "drives" the ship throughout the series. Why would a starship pilot know how to drive a car?
- Averted in Star Trek V, when Sulu pulls off some ridiculous fancy Coming In Hot maneuver with a shuttlecraft.
- Crash, for all its racial-awareness apparently couldn't resist a terrible Asian driver with an horrible accent to cause said car accident.
Live Action TV
- MADtv: initially averted, then subverted in an "Average Asian" skit.
- The That Mitchell And Webb Look sketch where David Mitchell receives a green clarinet that makes you tell embarrassing truths in verse has him retaliate against a woman who cuts in front of him in the supermarket checkout line by forcing her to confess:
"I secretly harbor racist views, racist views, racist views / I secretly harbor racist views / I don't think Asians drive well."
- In the "Diversity Day" episode of The Office, everyone is supposed to treat the others as the race named on a card stuck to their forehead. Dwight demands that Pam treat him as his new ethnicity (Asian), so he could figure out what it was.
Pam: Okay, if I have to do this, based on stereotypes that are totally untrue and that I do not agree with, you would maybe... not be a very good driver.
Dwight: Aw, man! Am I a woman?
- In the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner, Shatner at one point jokes about how brave a program Star Trek was. For God's sake, they let an Asian guy* drive!
- In one episode of Modern Family, Lily's Asian pediatrician complains that her mother expected her to get married and be a mommy instead of having a career. She says "The only way she'll be happy is if I'm some Asian stereotype, but that just isn't me." Then she drives off, hitting Mitchel and Cameron's garbage pail and a car parked across the street.
- In a later episode, Lilly hurts herself when she drives her toy car into the wall. "Please do not blame me, " Cam says. "We always knew there was a strong possibility that she'd be a terrible driver."
- Referenced on the Community episode "Romantic Expressionism". Pierce is among the people wisecracking on a bad movie. He says the director "can't drive" due to being Asian. Senor Chang is present and not amused.
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy may have Kai Chen in a high position of power on the Space Colony, but he is not allowed to pilot the Rangers' spaceship.
- Power Rangers Time Force averts this by making the Blue Ranger a racecar driver, albeit from the future. Although, he does seem to end up in traffic school a lot.
- British sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News parodied what was then a commercial for FIAT cars with Designed By Computer. (shots of car in outline desgn rotating on computer screen) Built by Robots (Shots of cars on assembly line being tooled by long sophisticated robotic arm). But driven by Italians (Shots of rush-hour traffic in Rome and attendent motoring mayhem.)
Stand Up Comedy
- Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani lampoons this along with Middle Eastern stereotypes:
"We're making progress in this country. You know how I know this? I saw a car commercial, and the driver was Asian. Good for that car company. They're taking a stand. They're saying 'No, Asians can drive, and they will drive - our cars.' Then I thought, maybe they're making kind of a racist statement, like, 'Our cars are so safe even Asians can drive them.' But still... I mean, you're never going to see a Middle Eastern pilot in an airline commercial. [putting on accent] 'Come fly the friendly skies... my friend.'"
- Indian-Canadian comic Russell Peters claims that he thinks the media perpetuates stereotypes more subtly in modern times. For example, on the news, if they show a car crash, the first person they cut to for a comment will be, if they can possibly manage it, an Asian person...
- A stand-up comedian once did a bit about a car game called "Guess the Race of the Driver In Front of You" and says that no matter what, you will always guess the same thing every time: Chinese.
- Whenever Asian-American comedian Elliot Chang passes by a car accident, he says "Please don't be Asian, please don't be Asian."
- One Asian comedian poked holes in this stereotype. "You think we can't drive? We make the best cars. You don't think we can drive them?!"
- Averted. With Keiichi Tsuchiya, known as the drift king. He invented drifting. He is the editorial supervisor for the Initial D anime. He even managed to drive with one hand taped to the wheel with duct tape.
- But played straight in Formula One. The category has had 24 drivers hailing from Asian countries (20 of them from Japan), and only three of them managed to score over 10 points throughout their career's spans (which, considering a career's time, is a measly total): Satoru Nakajima (16 points in five seasons), Takuma Sato (44 points in seven seasons) and Kamui Kobayashi (65 points in three seasons - granted, this was after F1's punctuation system was changed to one similar to what Indy uses).
- Takuma Sato later switched to Indy Car and ended up subverting the trope during the 2012 Indianapolis 500. He drove rather well for over one hundred laps and at one point became the first Japanese driver to lead the race. He then double subverted the trope when he tried to pass Dario Franchitti on the first turn of the final lap, spun out, and crashed. At least two other crashes had occurred on that turn in that same race.
- South Korean woman passes driving test after 950 attempts.
- Some of the contestants on Canada's Worst Driver simply happen to be Asian. The "winner" of Canada's Worst Driver 3 was Jason Zhang and Emily Wang was runner-up on the fourth series. But are they worse than non-Asian contestants? Heck, no.
- Japan is the only developed country where more people are killed by cars than in them. This is most likely because a lot of surface roads in Japan are ridiculously narrow and don't have sidewalks.
- George Takei has lampshaded this trope on his Twitter.
- Frequent changes of traffic laws may also be a point. Recently in China, passing through the cross road during YELLOW light becomes illegal.
- The Fung Wah bus company, which transported passengers between the New York and Boston Chinatowns, was shut down in part because it could not ensure its drivers were qualified and did not adequately test them for drugs or alcohol.
- Eat Your Kimchi frequently refer to the bad driving that they encounter. In the Halloween episode they refer to an approaching vehicle as a "murder car".