Wired: It’s Time For ‘Silicon Valley’ to Disrupt Its Toxic Asian Stereotypes

Note: this discusses a little bit of the current season – so possible spoilers if you haven’t been watching.

When I saw this headline on Facebook, I wondered why no one had written about this yet. I’m a fan of HBO’s Silicon Valley, but not a fan of the character Jian-Yang. I find Jian-Yang’s accent a bit extreme and his behavior a bit too bizarre and weird. He kind of makes me feel the same way whenever I see Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles, just a little bit disgusted. I mean, at times, Jian-Yang does make me laugh, especially more recently with his “hot dog, not hot dog” app, and I think Jimmy O. Yang does a great job of handling the writing, but as the Wired article expresses:

“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.

From the Margins to the Mainstream: A Panel on Race, Comedy and Prime Time TV

KPCC, Southern California’s public radio station, recently hosted this panel on Race, Comedy, and Prime Time TV.  The guest panelists were:

  • Melvin Mar (@ChineseGuy88), executive producer of “Fresh Off the Boat”
  • Joz Wang (@JozJozJoz), editor of 8 Asians and founder of V3, the largest digital media conference for Asian-American journalists, bloggers and more
  • Angela M. Hutchinson (@IamBiH), casting director and founder of the Breaking into Hollywood nonprofit for show business professionals

jozIt’s worth watching not only because Joz is a panelist, but also because of wide range topics such as the creation and initial reception of “Fresh off the Boat,” Matt Damon’s recent comments, and how TV shows are cast.  I found that last part interesting in that shows needing actors will ask for specific ethnicities or say that a part is open to any ethnicity.   You can see the video embedded above or at this link.

Emily Chang to Join ‘Vampire Diaries’ for Season 6

8A-2014-07-EmilyCChangFrom The Hollywood Reporter:

The Vampire Diaries is adding a new character who may not be who she seems.

On the heels of Eureka star Colin Ferguson joining the sixth season, The CW drama will be introducing the recurring character of Ivy, described as sweet and sincere. Actress Emily C. Chang, whose credits include Days of Our Lives and Total Recall, has booked the role.

Not much is known about Ivy, only that she’s “the quintessential girl next door with an unexpected wild side” — but knowing Vampire Diaries, the tide will turn sooner rather than later. She will first appear in the sixth-season premiere. [full story]

Irene Choi Cast As Asian Annie on Community

In Community (Season 3 premieres Sept. 22 on NBC), Alison Brie plays Annie, an less creepy Tracy Flick-like character who excels at everything. So what do you do to dethrone such an overachieving character? You cast an Asian American actress. Specifically, Irene Choi.

You may recognize Choi’s face from some shows such as Entourage, Greek, and Wilfred, but in Community she will give Annie a run for her money as an equally ambitious (if not more) student who will probably kill to be the best. Think of her as Sunshine Corazon to Rachel Berry on Glee — except more tolerable and funnier.

[Source: AOL]

Peter Shinkoda in Falling Skies

Falling Skies, which premiered on June 19th, is a science fiction drama about human beings are fighting to survive on Earth in a pretty classical alien invasion story, but what really caught my attention was the fact that they had entirely created a small version of a stereotypical American populace setting. On top of that, the Asian, portrayed by Peter Shinkoda, seems like he’s a supporting role consistently throughout the series which makes me happy to see more Asian faces in bigger hit series even if they aren’t leads.

Continue reading “Peter Shinkoda in Falling Skies”

Nicole Scherzinger Plays With Her Beaver on ‘How I Met Your Mother’

On this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, Nicole Scherzinger “loosened up her buttons” as Jessica Glitter, Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) ex-BFF from her days as Robin Sparkles, her Canadian pop star alter-ego of the ’80s.

Drenched in hyper-overstyled, skank-friendly attire, the two were stars of Space Teens, a kids show where they fought crime from space via math (and with the help of Alan Thicke!).

The funniest part of the show was the fact that, even though it was a kid show, there were layers upon layers of pornographic innuendos including slow motion jiggly jumping, stroking of a joystick, a song about beavers and, of course, the aforementioned skank-friendly attire — and let’s not forget the fact that Scherzinger’s character played the keytar! It’s so good to know that our favorite Filipino Pussycat Doll’s musical skills are being put to good use. Video clip of beavers and, uhm, keytars, after the jump:

Continue reading “Nicole Scherzinger Plays With Her Beaver on ‘How I Met Your Mother’”

What Asian-American Kids Watch on TV: Phineas and Ferb

Character Baljeet Rai studying during summer vacation

One of my sons’ favorite shows is a Disney Channel cartoon called Phineas and Ferb.  It’s about two stepbrothers who have adventures while looking for things to do on a summer day.   Phineas and Ferb are excellent engineers and builders and create incredible machines and other constructions.  As a continuing plot device, their older sister Candace tries to get them in trouble, and every episode she tries and fails to reveal their incredible handiwork to their mother.   Phineas and Ferb have a pet platypus named Perry, who is really an  undercover secret agent.   An ongoing subplot is Perry’s struggle with the evil Doctor Doofenshmirtz.  Their fights often destroy Phineas and Ferb’s work just as Candace is about to show that work to their mom.

But what does Phineas and Ferb have to do with Asian-Americans?   Continue reading “What Asian-American Kids Watch on TV: Phineas and Ferb”

Asian American Commercial Watch: Michelle Wie in McDonald’s Ad

I was channel surfing the other night when I came across a Chinese version of this McDonald’s commercial on the Bay Area’s local Chinese channel KTSF. I had wondered why a Korean American would be in a Chinese language commercial, but much to my delight, I was able to find the commercial in English. At first, I wasn’t too sure who that cute Chinese girl was (I just assumed she was Chinese since the commercial was in Chinese until I saw Michelle’s name).  I’m surprised I haven’t seen or heard of this commercial yet. I hope to bump into Michelle at a local McDonald’s near Stanford University one of these days!

Nikita Star Maggie Q a Crowd-Pleaser at CW Upfront


Yesterday, I attended the CW network upfront, which is a major annual event where the TV networks reveal their fall schedules. The CW was the last of the Big 5 networks to present and as you have probably heard by now, the network has two new shows for the fall: Hellcats, a college cheerleading drama reminiscent of Bring It On, and Nikita, a remake of the 1990 action thriller La Femme Nikita.

We saw previews for both and I was surprised at how action-packed Nikita was. The show was definitely no-holds-barred when it came to violence. It was like watching a female Jack Bauer. After the preview, lead star Maggie Q came onstage to greet the audience and talk a little about the show. She was the only actor to not read off the teleprompter, and she was funny, self-deprecating, and genuine. I think all of us in the audience fell a little in love with her, particularly after she said, “I don’t think any of you understand how good-looking it [the other CW stars] is backstage. It’s really intimidating. I had to push the A-cups up a little bit.”

If Maggie Q’s charm isn’t enough of a reason to check out Nikita (airing Thursdays this fall at 9PM), check out a sneak peek at the series above.

An 8Asians Interview with Glee’s Harry Shum Jr

Before Harry Shum Jr. was poppin’ and lockin’ on the pop culture phenomenon known as Glee, he was — well — dancing. Before his stint as Mike Chang on the show, he appeared in iPod commercials as well as dance-centric movies like Stomp the Yard and the Step Up franchise (including the 3-D version out in August). He can also be seen ticking and floating in the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD). On top of all that, he will be going on tour starting May 16 with his fellow New Directions members.

He’s quite a busy guy.

Nonetheless, Shum’s role as the jock-turned-show choir member is part of a show that is a current staple for Tuesday night TV. I had the opportunity to talk to him in an early morning phone interview about stereotypical Asian American paths, his role as the “Other Asian,” and how he’d react if Christopher Walken guest starred on the show. Check the interview out, after the jump!
Continue reading “An 8Asians Interview with Glee’s Harry Shum Jr”

John Cho Talks FlashForward & Star Trek 2

I don’t care what you say. Life is supremely unfair when the one week I’m out of the office, John Cho comes in for a special visit on Attack of the Show. I don’t know if this is the universe’s way of telling me that things between the two of us are just not meant to happen, or that our eventual meeting, courtship and marriage will be even better than ever when it FINALLY happens. Or maybe his handlers read this post and made sure I far away from him as possible.

I may be a little bitter now, but his on-air interview made up for it, where he gives away details about his character on FlashForward, news on the Star Trek sequel and the Harold & Kumar trilogy (3D!!!). Sadly, he makes no mention of me, not even in the behind-the-scenes interview after the cut. Continue reading “John Cho Talks FlashForward & Star Trek 2”

Star in an Asian American Jersey Shore

I am one of the millions of Americans who has seen each and every sorry episode of Jersey Shore. I was horrified at some of the antics of Snooki, The Situation and friends, yet I couldn’t tear my eyeballs away.

Now I’m reading about this ad on Craigslist from Tyrese Gibson’s production company looking for what could be a totally awesome…or truly abominable new reality series: an Asian-American version of Jersey Shore. Here’s what the ad says:

Looking for interesting, attractive, colorful Asian-Americans to cast in a reality show similar to JERSEY SHORE, REAL WORLD, THE HILLS, etc. We need attractive Asian-Americans with lively, strong, and unique personalities between the ages of 18 to 30 with equally interesting life stories and perspectives to share, especially individuals who know about and/or experienced the Koreatown life. If you are not Asian but are obsessed with Asian culture or people in some way, email us and please explain.

Three things came to mind when I read this ad.

  1. I’m not sure what to make of the fact that they welcome non-Asians who are “obsessed with Asian culture or people in some way.” (The f word is right on the tip of my tongue.)
  2. Why does the ad ask for Asian Americans, and yet they emphasize “Koreatown life”? Then again, Jersey Shore sought to cast guidos, but they ended up with a couple of non-Italians, like JWoww.
  3. Reality TV often exploits and stereotypes its contestants, so I have my reservations about how “Koreatown life” would be portrayed.

Regardless of how you feel about this, it’s best to keep in mind that this potential show is a long, long way from becoming a TV series. A long way. It might not even happen. I mean, just think about it. An all Asian American cast on TV? Yeah, right!