CBS doesn’t know how to write east Asian characters, and I’m not even talking about 2 Broke Girls, I’m talking about Superior Donuts. Though I can stand the show, there are some extremely cringe worthy parts. The basic blonde woman, Maya, they use in order to show how our generation is making everything so PC and “difficult.” She’s even used to show how ridiculous fighting for feminism and racial equality is. “Donut holes really symbolize vaginas.” She’s well intentioned and I agree with a lot of what she says (not that quote, but other ones about how it’s sexist to call women “baby” or “honey”). But she’s made to sound so ridiculous and the other characters don’t like her that we in turn are told not to like her. Next, there’s Fawz, who’s an immigrant from Iraq. He’s a pretty solid character, but he too falls into being racist and sexist. But at the same time, he acknowledges that he’s racist, which is good, but he just doesn’t care. There’s also a female chauvinist pig white female cop, a Jewish white donut store owner, and a black male cop, but I wont get into right now. Lastly, there’s Franco, an African American guy who actually gives some really poignant points when it comes to racism and police brutality. And that’s the episode I’m going to talk about today. For all the shows flaws, it does talk about racism when it comes to Arab people and African American people. However, when it comes to Asian American characters the show falls extremely flat.
In one episode Franco is rightfully pissed about being stop and frisked by police officers. Especially one cop, Officer Li, who happens to be Asian American. It turns out that Officer Li does have unconscious bias towards black people. However, they don’t talk about why he might have that bias and how that might be connected toward him also being a racial minority. Most racial minorities actually don’t like the other for one reason or another. First generation Asian American immigrants tend to not like black people because “they bring the whole minority community down.” This is because first generation Asian Americans have been put into the model minority hole, and try to assimilate as much as possible and be “white.” And to put a good name on their minority group, and black people tend to “taint” them. However, instead of discussing why Officer Li might be bias and going into his own past, they just treat him as white. Solidifying the fact that white people only embrace Asians because of the model minority myth that “they’re basically white.” The only other Asian American who have appeared so far are an Asian American girl and her mother who were selling girl scout cookies, and they were only in one episode.
It’s not just CBS who are white washing the Asian American experience, ABC is guilty of that too. With Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat. In the first episode of Blackish the father gets angry that Asian guys break dance and dance with a hip hop style. And though it’s true that if they don’t give credit to African Americans and just take their culture and make it “cool” then it’s appropriation, but Asian guys break dancing isn’t necessarily “cool” or even “mainstream.” Not to mention, they don’t’ talk about how because Asian Americans don’t have Asian American actors, singers, dancers to look up to, they identify instead with the black struggle because they’re the only other minority artists out there. Asian Americans are usually appreciating black culture, rather than taking from it. However, this isn’t always the case. I think in Asian America, taking on black culture happens not out of appropriation, but out of necessity, while K-pop artists taking on black culture through rap, clothing, dancing, and hair is appropriation because they are the dominant group in their country, and not giving any credit to the origins of rap and hip hop.
In Fresh Off the Boat there are just a million problems going on. Jessica and Louis are extremely unlikeable and unrelatable. Their character traits are so inconsistent and it’s as though they actually hate Chinese culture and want to make it funny, rather than respect it and show it for what it is. There’s one episode where they have to go to Chinese school, which is a huge reality for many Asian American people (whether it be Korean school, Chinese school, Japanese school etc), and rather than showing it for what it is, they show it in an exaggerated way so it’s funny to white audiences. Another episode they show chicken feet which for some reason are uncooked just so white people can be like “oh, of course Asian people want to be white.” Lastly, when Eddie presents Jamaica on world culture day with his friends, they’re all talking about why Jamaica is better than China, but then one of his friends goes “too far” by making fun of pandas. This for some reason sets Eddie off to be like “I love china and my heritage.” What the fuck Eddie? You just fucking said Jamaica is better than China and that you relate more to Jamaica! It’s not mandatory for you to love China. His whole speech at the end of the episode was never earned. I don’t feel anything after that. If I made an Asian American show, I wouldn’t place it in the middle of a white suburb. Have them live in an Asian American community and meet with other Asian people so you can have a more Asian cast. Not to mention, you can show a range of Asian life styles, not just the Huangs.
I’m sick of Asian American people getting shit on when it comes to TV and Movie representations. I’m sick of being white washed when we are shown, not only when white actors take our roles, but when Asian actors are watered down for a white audience. We need to be unapologetic for who we are.
21 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.