Aaah, reality television. It’s not truly reality, you know. It’s unscripted, sure, but there are camera crews, a director which calls the camera shots, a team of editors that take hours of real footage to be carefully crafted into 30-minute sound bytes. It can be very misleading and to some reality show contestants, potentially slanderous.
Which is why I love it. Seriously, I’m a huge reality show junkie; you can ask ANY of my friends – I was watching reality shows before Survivor, where I watch as seasons and seasons of The Real World would pass without any Asian man in sight. Over the past couple of years – and especially with the last two seasons of Survivor – I’ve gradually seen more diversity among its contestants, including Asian Americans. And that’s all warm and fuzzy, but honestly – what is the point of reality shows, if we can’t make snap judgments against people we don’t know at all?
Which is why I am branching slightly off the usual link-to-this-website format, to write a Top 6 list of my own: The Top 6 Asian Reality Stars That Make Me Cringe. Ready? Let’s go.
6. Yul from Survivor: Cook Islands
Okay, hear me out on this one – for the record, I know that Yul won Survivor and is huge on the Asian American activism circuit and doing his share of speeches and conferences. He’s the poster boy of and awareness on breaking stereotypes of Asians being nerdy and awkward. That’s awesome – it really is.
But for all of Yul’s successes – law school, winning a million dollars on survivor, petitioning for Asian-American bone marrow donations and his six-pack abs, I feel a little inferior for being mediocre and chubby. I would somehow feel a little better if the Smoking Gun turned up something on him, like a past drug record or a secret murder, like those dudes on Better Luck Tomorrow. Yul is excellent at shattering some of the Asian-American stereotypes of the past – but still upholds one major Asian-American stereotype of the present: The model minority.
Okay, off my soapbox.
5. Curtis from Big Brother 1
Remember Curtis from the first US version of Big Brother? You don’t? NEITHER DOES ANYONE ELSE. Nothing against Curtis in real life – a very tall (I’ve met him) lawyer of Asian decent from New York city, he’s probably a nice man but a lousy reality show participant, quiet and tolerable. Unfortunately, “quiet and tolerable” aren’t necessarily the traits you want when all of America is watching you on 64 cameras and streamed live over the Internet for three months, and he – among his other mundane crew – were one of the many reasons why the producers changed the shows format from the public eliminating contestants to the bikini-clad, Survivor-in-a-house Big Brother that you see today.
4. Kashif from America’s Got Talent
Dude, they’re laughing at you, not with you. Mostly about the eyebrows. (See also: William Hung.)
3. Michelle from Survivor: Fiji
Okay, Michelle doesn’t make me wince at all – I just needed an excuse to include this video of her falling off a perch. (When I saw this video on YouTube, I totally gasped in my cubicle, and then I watched it 23 more times and forwarded it to all of my friends. I’m a bastard.)
2. Gina: Americas Next Top Model
On the first episode where we’re introduced to all of the girls, Gina proudly tells Tyra Banks that she wants to represent all Asian American females everywhere. That lasts all of, oh, sixteen minutes, before she admits to not finding Asian guys attractive. Later in the season she let’s the alpha-female model bully her into demure, catatonic state, and then is reduced to a sobbing mess when she has to walk the catwalk with an African hissing cockroach. Oh, and she was a lousy model and all of her shots always looked like she was surprised. Boo, Gina. Boo.
1. William Hung from American Idol 3
Oh, William, where do I start with you? We know you meant well. All of America knows you mean well because for months after you did that audition, you were “just an civil engineering major with no prior singing experience.” And then all of America laughed at you, under the guise of laughing with you. Then your parents and/or milked your fifteen seconds of fame for all its worth: three records, countless commercials and appearances, backup dancers, a low budget Hong Kong movie. Mainstream America knows you as “that Asian guy from American Idol,” and all of us Asian males kinda wished you didn’t look so – hmm, what are the words I’m looking for – “Down Syndromey.”
(For the record: I can make it to the 37 second mark of the video before I am compelled to close the webpage, crawl up into fetal position, and cry myself to sleep.)