What Asian American Kids Watch on TV: Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures

“There’s more Asians on this show.”
— Number Two Son

Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures, a new show on Nickelodeon, definitely has more Asians than A.N.T. Farm.  Two out of five lead characters are Asian American!  One of those two characters is played by the amazing Ashley Argota, who was not only a lead actress in Nickelodeon series True Jackson VP but played young Nala in The Lion King Musical.   I like how she plays Bucket‘s love interest Kelly despite having a very Filipino look, much different from the typical “beauty” pushed by Filipino media and sellers of whitening creams.  Ashley’s character Kelly is not only pretty but atypically (for an Asian role) athletic, as Kelly is an expert surfer.  Her younger sister on the show, Piper, is played by Tiffany Espensen, another Asian American actress with a fairly long resume for her age, including Phineas and Ferb.  Piper is anything but a shy and passive Asian girl.  Lots of positive aspects here, but Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures also has some not so positive aspects.

“It’s really stereotypical.”
— Number Two Son

Both Kelly and Piper are respectively described as having “brains” and being an “overachiever”.  In one episode, Piper tries to sue her teacher for giving her a “B” on a test.  In another episode, she joins a school play in order to round out her future application to Harvard.  I realize that the show is trying to parody the whole Tiger Mom/kid thing, but in these early episodes, Piper is so harsh she comes off as a one dimensional stereotype.  In another stereotype, the smart and sassy Piper has an inexplicable crush on the the dumb white surfer kid Skinner.  It seems that any white guy will do.  Contrast that with Tiffany’s character Ginger on Phineas and Ferb, who has a crush on a smart Asian guy.

The show has other problems, such as the fact that it seems to be a clone of the Disney’s series, Zeke and Luther, that substitutes surfing instead of skateboarding.  Ashley Argota seems to be hedging her career bets by enrolling in Nursing at NYU as a “backup plan” (How Filipino!).  Given how talented she is, it seems a shame that she hasn’t been given that much to do in the early episodes, as one reviewer commented that she is “being directed to stand there and look pretty.”

Despite the shortcomings of Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures, I realize that the show is new and has time to grow.  The latest episode I saw let Ashley do more, showing off her singing skills in a school musical.  In the same episode, Piper showed she isn’t just a single minded Tiger kid by sharing credit for performance.  Let’s hope that the show does take off, so Ashley Argota doesn’t have to “fall back” on nursing.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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