As I posted a couple weeks ago, even though I hadn't watched the show "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt", I wasn't quite feeling a character called Dong with a thick accent who also tutors in math and then marries someone to get a green card.
But I thought - well - let's watch every damn episode just to see if in fact it could go against the grain and was really trying to make a point to usurp stereotypes.
So I did...
And I can tell you right now - not only does this character have all the issues I cringed at with no redemption - but the whole show uses Asian Americans and Asians as the butt of jokes throughout the season.
*Here's a list of fun racist items from the show from the Asian American perspective (because if I included everything else, this post would be a book).
- The character Jacqueline Voorhees thinks her husband is having an affair and one of the running "jokes" is that he's been spending a lot of time in Asia where she thinks he's most likely having an affair. One of her quotes is "He's been going to Japan lately and you can get mistresses in vending machines there". Yeah - I know. Apparently her husband has a foot fetish so of course Asia would be a place for him to pick up a mistress as well because of foot binding (where a reference was made). Score one for the Asian woman china doll stereotype!
- Quote from Titus: "This isn't the Chinatown bus - you can't just choke someone who's sleeping." I wasn't sure if this was in reference to a news story I wasn't aware about but I'm guessing even if it was, it went over most people's heads so either way - I'm not a fan of it.
- The character name Dong, because you know Asian names like Dong are funny and of course you have the Donger cultural reference. What other possible name could you have? And P.S. - there is no turning that one upside down because "Kimmy" is not Viet for cock and even if it was there is no parity there.
- In one episode at the high school where Kimmy is getting her GED apparently they also rent out lockers to Japanese business men - because you know - Japanese men are small and don't mind living in high school lockers
- At one point in the GED high school scenes Dong talks about the aggression of the Americans from the Viet/American War and Kimmy has to say to him "look around where you" (because I guess some of the other classmates were vets). Vietnamese immigrant = love for communism!
- Quote from Kimmy: "Is everything upside down in China?"
- Did I mention all the Dong name jokes? EP 8 has 'em good!
- Love the pan flute music for Dong scenes. It's almost as irritating as the general chinky gong/music people play. It's Asian but it's not!
- Quote from Lillian describing Dong as he's dressed up: "I guess VC stands for Very Sheik". Yes - please. Let's call more Viet characters VC.
- Even though the show tries to turn Asian fetish upside down with one scene from Lillian - its still borderline because we're still objects.
- Random Indian food joke - because that NEVER gets old!
- Of course the Chinese restaurant gets raided where Dong works and they have to shut down because you know - ALL the people working there are illegal!
- There's an Asian American adopted sister as one of Xanthippe's (Jacqueline Voorhees's stepdaughter) friends. But of course - she's sleeping with her brother! More oversexed Asian American female characters!
- Dong marries some old as hell lady so he can stay in this country - because who in the world ever thought that maybe his character could be sponsored by another family or friends already over here or someone else? Hell no - we're liers and cheats!
What's funny to me is how some statements are made for feminism, Native Americans, mascot names, and being black and gay - but for us Asian Americans - there's nothing.
While some people want to applaud Tina Fey for giving us an Asian American face, in effect it's the same old caricatures we've seen before except wrapped up in a POV of a hipster White world where we're supposed to believe that it's somehow better and different.
But it's not.
*Note that some quotes are paraphrased/close to verbatim but not always word for word.