One character I did forget to mention, was the venture capitalist (VC) Ed Chen, who is portrayed by actor Tim Chiou. Ed Chen comes across as any other douche bag, venture capitalist “Silicon Valley bro.” Chen could be of any race – but he’s not a stereotypical geeky Asian American, and in fact, in a recent episode, you see Chen take off his shirt to play basketball, and he’s pretty good looking if you ask me:
I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a broad range of Asian American men to be portrayed – just like Caucasian men.
“Meanwhile, Pakistani immigrant Dinesh spectacularly screwed up both a CEO position and a relationship—the entire point of his character is that he’ll never be as smart or as savvy as Gilfoyle. (For proof of this, look no further than their tiff on last night’s episode, which Gilfoyle won simply by maintaining that he did.) Chinese immigrant Jian-Yang is written as even less smart—his big pitch this season was a collection of eight octopus recipes—and the developer’s greatest achievement thus far has been cheating Erlich out of a year’s rent by taking advantage of a loophole meant to help the unfortunate. Dinesh and Jian-Yang might be just as brilliant as their counterparts, but Silicon Valley never shows it.
Not every white character on Silicon Valley is a genius, of course. And that’s the point. White characters can be dreamers like Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch) or dumdums like Big Head (Josh Brener). But its Asian characters, who represent the quarter of Valley workers who are Asian or Asian American, are shuttled into the same little boxes society has kept for Asians for centuries. For a show that’s constantly questioning what keeps innovation and progress from happening, it should ask the same of itself.”
I’ve been living and working in Silicon Valley since August 1999, and I have never met someone who acted like Jian-Yang. And I’ve also worked for Chinese companies and worked with a lot of Asian and Asian Americans. I must admit, I don’t think I’ve met anyone like Erlich or Gilfoyle, but at least those characters are not, I believe, based on any racial stereotypes.
After writing this post, I did a comment regarding the Wired article from a Facebook friend of mine who said:
“My boyfriend is friends with Jimmy O. Yang and Jimmy O. Yang came up with the Jian Yang character on his own. His character reminds me of my former roommate who was straight up from China. She used to smoke in her room, make stinky Chinese dishes with dried octopus and rarely washed her dishes.. it’s a stereotype that, at least to me, hits close to home and is pretty accurate to my life experience.”
So it’s interesting to hear that Yang came up with the character. Yang came over to the U.S. from Hong Kong when he was 13. Maybe he’s not as familiar or as offended to a Long Duk Dong character (well, Jian-Yang isn’t that bad). Still, not a big fan of the character and hope Jian-Yang evolves as the show progresses.
For the most part, I think Dinesh’s character has been treated fairly, except for the fact that Gilfoyle often antagonizes Dinesh for not having a girlfriend or friends (except that he does in Season 3 for part of the season). However, I was really disappointed to see that Dinesh wasn’t CEO of Pied Piper for more than an episode – I really liked seeing the cocky, arrogant, self-assured – should I say, white-washed Dinesh being portrayed.
I don’t know how many more seasons Silicon Valley can go for (it’s been renewed for it’s fourth season already), but I really do hope that the show can develop Jian-Yang into a more realistic, but also still funny character.
This article from the Daily Kos talks about the most Asian American congressional district in the United States – California’s 17th District. I would have thought that a district in Hawaii would be more Asian American, but the Honolulu district closely trails this Silicon Valley area. Some highlights:
The district is 52% Asian American
Indian Americans make up 18% of the population
I live in this district! (actually, although true, that’s not in the article).
While mobile health units are used in impoverished places like the slums of Mumbai to deliver health care to Asians there, they are also used to deliver health care to Asians in not so impoverished places – the companies of Silicon Valley. This article from Fortune points out that working in Silicon Valley can be bad for workers’ health as being poor can be in other places. Author Jeffrey O’Brien also stresses that while the Silicon Valley work lifestyle can be bad for everyone, it seems to be worse for Asian Americans, particularly if those Asian Americans are of South Asian descent. Exaggeration? Not to me, as many of the problems described have affected me as a Silicon Valley worker.
When Number One Son took an SAT prep course in Fremont last summer, I looked at the kids coming out of the class and saw nothing but Asian kids. Curious, I asked him some questions:
“Do any white kids go there?
“Where do most of these kids go to school?”
“Mission San Jose.”
It turns out that Mission San Jose, a majority Asian high school in Fremont, California, made it on a list of the top 25 US high schools by SAT and ACT scores. Nine high schools with large Asian American student populations, some of which we have talked about, are in that top 25.
The number one high school for standardized tests is Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, which has an Asian American plurality. A number of these schools are in Silicon Valley, such as the Harker School (#2), Lynbrook, (#7), Henry M. Gunn (#12), Monta Vista (#15), Mission San Jose (#18), and Leland (#20). Some of these like Monte Vista, Lynbrook, and Mission San Jose have Asian American majorities, while the others have very large Asian American student populations. Stuyvesant (#4) in New York and the Illinois Math and Science Academy (#11) both have Asian American majorities. 8asians has talked about Mission San Jose and Cupertino (where Monta Vista is) schools on a number of occasions.
Does performance on standardized tests mean that those schools are doing a good job?
When Bravo put out a preview of their upcoming series, Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, one comment about it on Gizmodo said that Asians apparently don’t exist in the Hollywood version of Silicon Valley. As a Silicon Valley resident who watched the preview, I was left thinking “whitewashed!” But after more thought, I realized that in a sad way, the show actually did portray a certain harsh reality.
College admissions officers have been criticized about things like caps on Asians Americans and decisions about who gets in and who does not. But what do they really think? The Daughter’s high school held a session where a college admissions officer talked about admissions from the his perspective and gave us parents a chance to ask him questions. This segment presents a view of the admissions game from the other side. The admissions officer, the Dean of Admissions from a small San Francisco Bay Area private university, talked about trends, tricks, and test scores in today’s world of college admissions.