Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics


Doing Bad All by Ourselves

 

The Asian American blogosphere has, over the past couple of weeks, been abuzz over publicity stills for K-Town , dubbed "The Asian Jersey Shore." A lot of folks are afraid it'll make Asian Americans (Korean Americans, in particular) look bad, will introduce another stereotype to the mainstream (you never know, this Asian Men Hate Wearing T-Shirts stereotype might really catch on), and will cause lasting damage to the Asian American image, etc. But I think the general consensus seems to be, "I am fearful but also intrigued."

Point blank, this has never been done before. When have we ever seen that many Asian people together on US television? When have we ever seen Asian characters not rehashing the same five stereotypes in the mainstream (nerd, martial arts master, dragon lady, geisha, bad foreign driver)? How often do you see hot, shirtless Asian men on television? It's rare, and while none of us have actually watched the show and the consequences have yet to be seen, do we really believe that this show is capable of introducing an entirely new stereotype to the mainstream?

Now the only TV shows I've seen in the past two years have been Ni Hao Kai Lan and Yo Gabba Gabba, so I may be a little out of the loop, but the issue I saw with Jersey Shore is that it reinforced a stereotype that already existed in the mainstream, a stereotype people have actively been trying to bust. So is this really as terrible or even in the same ballpark as the public fascination with William Hung? He shot to stardom because he was the actual embodiment of every bad Asian stereotype in existence: He was foreign, a nerd, unattractive, and socially awkward. K-Town seems to me the polar opposite.

I'm not advocating for trash television, and this is clearly about to be on some low culture foolishness, but the reel seems... I dunno, kind of awesome. I've been to parties crawling with these types of folks -- they exist, and this is not some sort of Hollywood executive invention. That's not to say that some creative editing won't take place, but there's some value to just having more people who look like us out there in the spotlight. We Asian Americans exist in America and we do good and bad things as normal people do; Hollywood can't ignore that anymore.

Moreover, does nobody find it fascinating that there don't seem to be any white folks on this show? How often does this happen, where Asian folks tell the story, create the story, are the story, rather than just background characters in a white person's story? This show is essentially about Asian Americans hanging out with each other in a predominantly Asian neighborhood in L.A. While it has the potential to let loose some negative stereotypes, I think we can assume that these cast members are creating their own context here. As far as mainstream television is concerned, this is totally uncharted territory.

I say all of this with the knowledge that this show hasn't actually been picked up yet, but personally, I think the buzz on this show is a great thing. And I hope it makes it to TV, even if it introduces a small sect of catty, alcoholic, entitled Asian American kids. Isn't this the first step in getting to invent ourselves on the screen?

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waylan wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago
Anonymous wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

steve!!

steve is so hot!!!!!!!!

Ravi wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

From the reel, they look like

From the reel, they look like action figures....I wonder what they have to say?  Maybe that's not what it's about - it's just about entertainment's version of "real life".  I wish them luck, and I'd be interested in seeing it, at the very least.  Never watched Jersey Shore, though...

Kenny wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

Reality TV deals in

Reality TV deals in stereotypes so as Asians we can't really complain that much that we're being generalized.  It happens to everybody on Reality TV from Jersey Shore to The Real World. 

Can't complain about always being portrayed as nerds or socially awkward geeks on TV, then not support a show portraying the exact opposite. 

Anonymous wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

Re: "predominantly Asian neighborhood in L.A"

You may not have known this, but, although LA's Koreatown is the major center of Korean/KoreAm business and culture in the US, it isn't "predominantly Asian". 

There ARE lots of asians (Koreans and Korean Americans in particular), but, like the rest of central L.A., Koreatown is mostly Mexican/Centroamerican.

Mike Oh wrote 4 years 12 weeks ago

Disgust

I keep coming across crap about this "show" that is not even a "show" yet.   

First of all, imitations are never as good as the original.  It is as phony as any other "reality" show.  I bet these people do not even live in Korea town in real life, just as the jersey shore losers don't actually live in jersey.  They just want to be famous.  That is it. They will all fit into pre-fabbed characters and will be edited by the whims of the producers.  Drink, fight, make-out, sex, fight again, puke.  Not impressed.  The collective IQ of this group is without a doubt LOW. 

Umm, let's see what we have here as the cast of "ktown": a gay porn star, a prostitute (that scarlet girl with the lame tattoo admits to being a whore on her stupid blog, she is just gross), a douchebag, and a eurasian looking beauty queen (yes she is actually pretty but probably is dumb).  Whatever.  These losers will get their 15 minutes of fame, the producers will make some money, then they will go back to their lame lives...broke. 

Ko-chu-pado K-town!

Alvin Lin wrote 4 years 13 weeks ago

RE

Though the show will probably be like watching a train wreck (an entertaining one) just like Jersey Shore and most MTV reality TV, I think the K-Town series is a positive step forward.

The end goal is having so many diverse and three-dimensional images of various Asian American characters, that there really won't be any definitive stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans anymore.  They'll just be American.

Some criticism of this show from Asian Americans reminds me of the insecurity-based criticism of 'Better Luck Tomorrow' from some Asian Americans when that movie came out, because of unflattering or different images of Asian Americans.

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About The Author

Theresa Celebran Jones

Theresa Celebran Jones was born and raised in Connecticut and has moved cross-country four times. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young daughters. She works full-time as a technical writer and is an MFA dropout. Her only other hobbies are reading, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and listening to hip hop. Clearly she has no social life.

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