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?
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!