Linsanity is a documentary about the story of Jeremy Lin’s triumphic basketball career in a hegemonic world. Lin, the first Asian-American NBA player in the modern era, struggled to receive validation and acceptance of his talents because of the societal conditioning of a specific image of an Asian that must be fulfilled as the model minority: intelligent, successful, stable job, bad at sports, and a physique that is generally short. Jeremy Lin is a radical figure that has broken the chains of hegemonic oppression, exiting the system because he has “Faith only in God”, his tool for agency. His relationship with God is the freeing mechanism that allocates complete resistance to the system of hegemonic oppression**. Textual analysis of the film shows that Lin focuses on God in a very direct relationship that seems to be different from the Christianity that is portrayed in mainstream media (one that is more ‘religious’and concerned about going to church and being ‘good’). Lin seems to practice a belief of reliance on God because of his helplessness in a chaotic world as opposed to a Christian that strives to be perfect in a chaotic world by following a list of commandments. There is a very real divide in the Christian world itself between religion and relationship.
Religion has been used as a political tool in the system of hegemony to exploit people through a claim of “in God’s name.” In the Christian discourse, secularism is traced all the way back to even before Christopher Columbus, who claimed to colonize the natives as servants for God’s glory, but in reality, he abused the name of God in order to validate his want for gold and glory. His documentation of meeting the natives speaks the truth of his use of religion for temporal power:
“…and that they might become Christians and inclined to love our King and Queen and Princes and all the people of Spain; and that they might be eager to search for and gather and give to us what they abound in and we greatly need.” (Primary Source by Christopher Columbus)
As shown, Columbus sought to colonize the natives for economic benefits and it is only through the excuse of Christianity that he is able to justify this hegemony.
During the Exclusion era, the “heathen” Chinese were seen as full of vice, bad for the purity of good white Christians of America. In reality, the white working class members were scared that they would take away all their jobs. Yet, at the same time, white capitalists benefited from the cheap labor of the Chinese, and therefore tried to convert them to make them as “American” as possible. (It is also worth mentioning that white capitalist oppressors also used Christianity as a tool for determining citizenship during this era as seen in People vs. Hall, the trial that determined that Chinese people cannot testify against a white man.)
Jeremy Lin is radical because he does not follow a religion (which would make him play right into the system). He lives with a completely different ideology that centers around his reliance on God as he gives up material jealousies and future to God. This is how he exits the system of hegemonic oppression because he does not need reliance on the material values of the word which are crucial for the system. For example, he has turned down millions of dollars in advertisements because money is not his primary goal. He plays basketball solely “for God because that is [his] purpose which gives [him] peace and ultimately joy” (Linsanity).
Because he lives outside the system of oppression, he is able to continue to pursue his dreams no matter what. As a college student at Harvard, he lead the team making “good teams look bad” (perhaps relating to the very real fear today that immigrants will come and take over America). Even at such a progressive institution, he was taunted and heard racial slurs such as “Take your ass back to China, you’re a Chinese import!” When Lin was signed by his hometown team, the Warriors, he was “just there to sell jerseys and increase revenues.” Lin was exploited by white capitalist owners of the Warriors because he was a home town guy that had a significant Asian American population. Lin was a figure that many Asian Americans looked up to because he seemed to defy the system’s norms through deviant behavior (Lin’s approval among the Asian American audience is shown because Linsanity was sold out at the Sundance Film Festival). Because previous discouragements of his basketball career did not work, the system sought a way to just adapt around his ideology and exploit him anyway.
Lin repeatedly says “I wasn’t playing my brand of basketball” and that he “was just trippin.” The brands of basketball are either succumbing to the system or escaping. He felt overwhelmed with the system because of the pressures of having to do well in order to “speak for everyone who didn’t get their chance” as well as having to battle the forces of so many people who “were so ready to just bury him and give up on him.” He knew that the system minimized him into an Asian body that creates revenue for the oppressed people, and if he failed to reach a certain level of outstandingness, he was socially and economically punished by getting dropped by the team.
Lin was waived by two teams withing two weeks. When he was picked up by the Knicks, he did not play for 5 consecutive games, nonetheless get to practice. While most would give in to the racial taunts, stress, and the economic instability like Ben did in Better Luck Tomorrow, Lin knew the purpose of his life through God and radically pursued a career in basketball, entrusting everything to God’s will and ignoring ideologies of the system.
After his successful play against Kobe Bryant, Lin could have been tempted to offend Kobe by asking the media, “I don’t know who he is” which would have been repeating the unhealthy cycles of negative feelings trans-ethnically, part of the system’s goal to have minorities come against each other
as to realize that they are all oppressed people fighting against white oppressors. However, Lin shows he has escaped the system as he is guided by Jesus’ teachings and decides to live humbly, again not for individual vanity, but for God.
Karl Marx said “religion is the opium of the people.” However, religion is a tool for the oppressors and the only opium that can take someone out of the system is through a direct relationship with God, one that cannot be manipulated by the system. The supernatural peace that Lin experiences with God is the consequence of officially letting go all the baggage (societal, political, and economic pressures) from the system and just enjoying the talents that God has blessed him with. This movie is significant to the audience because it shows an alternative path to being an oppressed person in the system: fostering a relationship with Christ. It may also ring well with people who have sought out God to help them with hegemonic oppression from the white oppressors.
**Hegemony is the domination of a certain group over others. This dominant ‘oppressor’ group forces the subservient ‘oppressed’ group through discipline and in turn, the oppressed group consents to dominion through ideology. The main motivation for continuing such a system is to ensure stability of the economy. Hence arises the differences in class which are distinctions made by race, further categorized by gender, sexuality, and cultural citizenship, yet normalized through stereotypes and their connection to structural conditions such as the labor market.
Linsanity. Dir. Evan Jackson Leong. Perf. Jeremy Lin. 2013. Film.