Asian American Portrayal in American comedy-series

TV has been and still is an important component of popular culture. Comedy series as a television genre is usually reflects ordinary people’s value and feelings. Although Asian is not very common in mainstream comedy, I think it still reflect what people think about Asians, especially if there are some stereotypes. Asian American as a minority group is relatively making slightly more money than other ethnic group. According to Alba and Yrizar (2016), in terms of higher paying jobs, the percentage of Asian as well as other non-native born is growing from 2000 to 2010. Because of that, there are more and more shows that have Asian American characters. By looking at several different shows, and comparing them, it gives you a good idea about how Asians American and their culture are portrayed differently between now and 20 years ago.

 

 

First I want to look at “ALL-American Girl”(ABC, 1994-1995). Based on its IMDB page (tt0108693), it is a show about the differences between a traditional Korean mother Katherine and her Americanized daughter Margaret. The mother gives the daughter a lot pressure in terms of choosing her partner; she wants Margaret to marry Korean men such as lawyers, doctors, and scientists, while Margaret is more interested in people like musicians, bikers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4Q8HhKT3MY

In this very episode, around 2:40, there is a scene that Katherine’s picked date for Margaret showed up and Margaret is not happy with it and she goes out for a date. The next scene is the whole family stay up in order to wait Margaret to come home. And they airdropped while Margaret is talking to her date Kyle. Kyle later is invited to family dinner while Katherine judges him in Korean in the dinner table because she thinks Kyle is a loser. This clip really shows that the Asian parents are very judgmental and sort of control freak when it comes to their children’s love life, which is a very common stereotype. I’m not sure that back in 90s, if Asian parent were a thing, but this episode definitely can lead people think Asian parents are like the character Katherine. But Margaret Cho does not write the show All-American girl, according to this interview (http://iamkoream.com/20-years-later-margaret-cho-looks-back-on-all-american-girl/). She has no creative control at that time, and this show appears like other American sitcom in terms of storyline. In another words, they just change the American family into a Korean family, and add some Asian stereotypes such as ultra-strict parents and lack of privacy in Asian household. On the other hand, having Asian American on major TV network was already a big deal at that time.

 

Next I want to look at a more recent show, Fresh Off The Boat (ABC, 2015-). Fresh off boat is an ABC’s comedy series based on Eddie Huang’s memoir, it talks about a Chinese immigrants live in Orlando, which everyone in family tries to acclimate to the new environment. The audiences are average viewer of ABC.

 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BDZJM2M?ref_=imdbref_tt_wbr_aiv&tag=imdbtag_tt_wbr_aiv-20

fresh-off-the-boat

On this particular episode, Huang’s family failed to go to Washington, D.C. due to the lost of their plane tickets, so they have to spend the holiday in Orlando. They struggled to find local Asians to celebrate the New Year with due to the fact that there are not so many Asians in Orlando. Finally they found an organization called Asian American Association of Orlando, but the Chinese New Year party they host is very inauthentic. I like this episode because in Chinese culture, the New Year is very important, the way Huang’s family handle this situation is very interesting. Another detail is that there is not enough Asians population in Orlando, which makes Huang’s family had to fit in with the locals. On the other hand, I can see they kept their cultural and identity no matter where they go. In addition, the way the mainstream Caucasian look at Chinese New Year is also interesting. I also want to point out that by nature, All-American Girl and Fresh Off Boat are different. Eddie Huang’s approach is very different because he definitely has creative control compare to Margaret Cho. According to a Nassbaum’s New Yorker article, this show is focusing more on figure out who you really are by using a Chinese family’s kid’s perspective. Therefore, it would definitely touch more Asian cultural aspect than All-American Girl. One interesting point is that the parents on this show have been criticizing of being too American. I guess the character is logically accurate because Jessica was grown up in Unite State and Louis clearly tried very hard to blend in mainstream American culture. Although they have been criticize of being not Asian enough, I still consider they are the most Asian TV character I see so far, and a lot of their quality are very much on point.

 

Lastly, I want to look at Aziz Ansari’s new show, Master of None. According to its IMDB page (tt4635276) it is a story of the personal and professional life of Dev, a 30-year-old actor in New York.

master

https://www.netflix.com/title/80049714

 

I particular like episode 2, Parents. In this episode, Dev and his Asian friend Brian want to show their appreciation to their immigrant parents by inviting them out for dinner. In the beginning of this episode, it shows Dev and Brian’s father’s childhood and the journey he took in order to get in Unite state. It also adds more power when Dev and Brian dragged audience to present time, and make audience think the contrast between Dev’s generation and his father’s. I can imagine that is very true to a lot of immigrants. According to D’Addario (2015), this episode help people to relate to and understand parents who was raised in a difficult environment, which I also happened to have personal experience since the generation of my parents were grew up on relatively poor circumstances too. There is a huge difference between the environment first-generation immigrants grew up in and the second-generation immigrants. This show has the best critics review among these three, and is my personal favorite. I think one of the major reasons is that this show has more creative freedom than the rest two since it is a Netflix show. So rating is not as important as All-American Girl (which got canceled because of poor rating) and Fresh Off The Boat in writer’s mind.

 

In conclusion, despite all the stereotypes mainstream have towards Asian American, the situation of Asian American have been portrayed in comedy series has improved dramatically from 20 years ago. There is more Asian American appeared on TV, and their cultural have been showed to American audience more than 20 years ago. However, the mainstream networks are still failing in terms of the numbers of more diversified shows, like the co-creator of Master of None Alan Yang said on the accept speech on 21st annual critics’ Choice Award, “Also thanks to all the straight white guys who dominated movies and TVs so hard and for so long; that story about anyone else seems kind fresh and original now.”

 

 

Learning Moments

One of the significant learning moment for me is the week two’s reading. I especially like the article about Muslim women in the print news media. I found it very fascinating that by associate Muslim women with negative image can make such result. I already have those feelings but this article confirms my feeling. I also found reading others’ prompts about this article on course blog can also help me understand this article more since I would miss some of the points.

 

Another significant learning moment is the synchronous activity. I found it very helpful for coming up with my thesis. It is extremely helpful because others can ask you more specific question about your paper because when I brainstorming, I ‘m usually stuck in my own head and it is good to hear from others perspectives.

 

 

Work cited

 

Alba, R., & Yrizar Barbosa, G. (2016). Room at the top? minority mobility and the transition to   demographic diversity in the USA. Ethnic and Racial Studies,39(6), 917-938. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/10.1080/01419870.2015.108196

 

Ansari, Aziz, and Alan Yang. “Parents.” Master of None. Netflix. New York City, New York, 6 Nov. 2015. Television.

 

 

Blackett, Camilla. “The Year of the Rat.” Fresh Off the Boat. ABC. 2 Feb. 2016. Television.

 

 

D’Addario, D. (2015, November 13). Master of None Knows Exactly What It’s Doing. Retrieved May 08, 2016, from http://time.com/4111777/master-of-none-aziz-ansari-review/

 

Jacobs, Gary. “Mom, Dad, This Is Kyle.” All-American Girl. ABC. Burbank, California, 14 Sept. 1994. Web.

 

 

Nussbaum, Emily. “Home Cooking.” Funny Families on “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Black-ish.”  The New Yorker, 02 Mar. 2015. Web. 08 May 2016. <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/09/home-cooking-television-emily-nussbaum&gt;.

 

“Master of None” Wins Best Comedy Series.” Interview by Alan Yang. 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards. A&E, 17 Jan. 2016. Web.

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Asian American Portrayal in American comedy-series

  1. Hi Wei,
    I really enjoyed reading your post, and your post was very similar to mine. I also talked about Asian stereotypes in American sitcoms. However, you made interesting point which caught my attention. I I agreed with you that Fresh off the boat was more touched on the Asian culture. I found out that it was very authentic although it presented some Asian stereotypes. it was very educational because it allowed people with other ethnicities to learn about some real aspects of Chinese culture along with the joy.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Jing

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