Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay–Unrated (2008)

I can honestly say that this is the absolute funniest film I’ve seen in a long time.  I most appreciate the sick, childish, and ridiculous humor that directors Hurwitz and Schlossberg have let run rampant throughout.  This film is littered with stereotypes for all, and while it provides an endless “I can’t believe they’re doing that!”, those ridiculous stereotypes nonetheless have specific functions in the film.  For most of the stereotypes, there was a balance–there was frequently a character around to say “Wait, the stereotype is obviously wrong.  Look at what’s actually happening here.”  A few stereotypes, however, had no Reason to balance them: especially the inbred couple with their cycloptic baby, and the KKK’ers. Being a Southerner, I still cringe at the perception of all Southern folks being racist inbreeders, but the way in which the Southern stereotypes were presented was still roll-around-on-the-floor funny.  The couple was sophisticated and modern, but still incestuous.  And, I think they presented the KKK in the only light they could have:  absolute “Bubba” ridiculousness.

I think the most intriguing aspects of the film’s rampant stereotyping was how the inmates and the guards at Guantanamo Bay were presented; how obviously idiotic and highly illogical the Homeland Security Secretary was (played by Rob Corddry from The Daily Show); and how George W. Bush was portrayed as a man who has issues with his father’s (and others’) authority, and how he was just a regular guy who liked a good joke and a good toke. 

What kept me rolling in laughter well after the film had ended was what they all used to describe the “torture” practiced in Guantanamo Bay.  And while the idea of being forced to eat a “cock-meat sandwich” as your torture is inherently funny (because of the words themselves, not the act itself), it’s also absurdly disturbing.  Do we detain people for our own self-satisfaction?  Is that what Hurwitz and Schlossberg are trying to convey to us? 

And, do we hang on to these stereotypes of ours for our own misguided justifications?  Do we remain in the Dark Ages of our own racism and discrimination so that we can keep discriminating?  This goes for everything presented in the film.  How often do we interpret the world around us incorrectly because of stereotypes we have absorbed into our psyche?  Corddry’s character frequently mistakes individuals based on stereotypes–Harold and Kumar (for terrorists), the African American orthodontist for a Thug, etc.  And, in the case of the Southern stereotypes, how often do “we” overlook that certain things associated with stereotypes might still be going on–we don’t want to believe that Southern people are really inbreeding, but we’re quick to mistake a group of African American males playing basketball in the street for a gang of Thugs. 

How selective are we being with our stereotypes?

Granted, the viewer could see it coming when Kumar pulled out his bomb-like bong in the plane’s bathroom, especially when earlier, the viewer could clearly see the suspicious older white lady eyeing Harold and Kumar in their seats, where she envisions Kumar (an Indian) as a bearded Afghani terrorist.  The viewer knows that they’ll be labeled as terrorists as soon as Kumar pulls that device out of his bag and shows it to Harold.  Reality is unimportant when stereotypes are the currency of fear.

I don’t think this is just another stoner movie.  I think it’s more than that.  From this film, I took away a really long laugh about the “cock-meat sandwich” and the cycloptic inbred baby, and also a better sense of how stereotypes are founded, mis-guided, and mistaken in our own times.  Even down to the rich, young, Republican prick who turned Harold and Kumar into the Feds for his own glory–well, that’s not so much a stereotype as it is a reality, right?!

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