8 Asians

lloyd_lThroughout the last five or so years, there have only been two shows that have really piqued the interests of almost everyone I know, the first being ABC’s mega-hit Lost (which I’ve only begun watching). The second one is HBO’s comedy Entourage, which never seems to lose any fans and always seems to be adding more by the minute.  I remember watching it for the first time right after the second season had ended, and finishing both seasons over a period of less than 24 hours; its an entertainment phenomenon that fulfills our need to laugh, but also our obsession with life in Hollywood.  Still as seasons progressed and I grew with the show, I couldn’t help but realize that Entourage was the  “same ol’ same ol'”, in that Ari Gold was still clinging on to the same antics he had four seasons ago, and the boys were still the characters they were when we first saw them debuting Head On.   Compared to other comedies, such as How I Met Your Mother or The Office, there never seemed to be any character depth, and the entire series was driven entirely by the plot.  Not that I’m complaining because its a wonderful plot-line, but besides Eric and Ari, all the other characters seem as superficial as… well Hollywood.

But this year seems different, because you can already see the growth of each of the five main characters, who have their own personal problems that extend beyond crashing a Ferrari or losing a movie role.  Instead they seem to be trialed against independence and loyalties, destroying or salvaging relationships that inhibit each individual’s career goals.

Most interesting is Lloyd, the openly homosexual Asian assistant to Hollywood super agent Ari Gold, played by Rex Lee.  While the relationship between Lloyd and Ari has always been a highlight of the show, there was never a true challenge to their bond.  Lloyd is Ari’s perfect assistant: independent enough to challenge Ari when necessary, thick skinned to withstand Ari’s trademark homophobic and racist slurs, and so loyal that he is perhaps Ari’s only true friend and ally.   Yet all good things have to come to an end, as Lloyd’s own ambitions and parental pressures pit him against Ari’s need for a good assistant — you can only put up with being a lowly assistant for so long.  This conflict puts the character into a rare position for adequate Asian American and homosexual representation in television.  Lloyd’s character is stereotypical in the way Entourage plays stereotypes; it doesn’t so much offend as much as draw attention… and it flirts with that tight line perfectly.   Despite that, Lloyd’s character growth (at least the potential for it) is something unique in television because the character can openly fight down those stereotypes that are presented right on the screen.   Rex Lee’s subservient, ambitious, and kind character (think  of John Cho’s Harold, especially the opening scene) evolves into an independent, strong, and determined agent… something we don’t see much of on television.  Of course, the writers could make it so that the two are co-dependent of each other and write it otherwise, but after watching the first episode, I doubt it.

I don’t think that this “opportunity” has ever presented itself so openly in popular media (save for Harold and Kumar).  Sure we see Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun-Hwa Kwon.. or Hiro and Ando and their trials and tribulations to knock down Asian American sterotypes in popular entertainment, but they’re distinctly Asian, and not Asian-American; not to mention that their characters still hold onto hard line stereotypes.  Plus, those cultural conflicts aren’t important to their perspective plots as it will be for Entourage’s.  Other notables, such as Grace Park, fill a racial quota on shows like Battlestar Galactica or The Cleaner, in that they’re Asian, but if you read the script you wouldn’t be able to tell they are.  Rex Lee is in a unique position, and as much as my focus on Entourage will still be on Vincent Chase and his escapades, I’m now really excited to see if Lloyd  lives to his potential, both on and off the screen.

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