Source: Rafu Shimpo, August 12, 2010
Into the Next Stage: Do We Need a "K-Town" Version of "Jersey Shore"?
By GUY AOKI
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on August 12, 2010.)
It’s been four months since we heard the announcement that R&B singer Tyrese was developing an Asian American version of MTV’s popular “Jersey Shore,” the reality show which focuses on mostly 20-something Italian American underachievers getting drunk, rowdy, and stupid. A pilot for “K-Town” has been shot, but it’s yet to be picked up by any cable channel. This is what we can glean from press notes and the trailer:
Over a high tech, catchy theme song, we’re introduced to blonde hairdresser Jasmine Chang, 23, originally from Hong Kong; Young Lee, 24, originally from Guam, who dresses in suits and walks like a gangster as guys light his cigarette; Jennifer Field, 26, a hapa-hottie who won the 2006 Miss Asian American Pageant; Peter Le, 26, a buff gay porn star who’s seen working out in the gym; the likewise muscle-bound Joey Cha, 25; the scantily clad Scarlet Chan, 24, a stripper/hooker who talks to us while doing her business on the toilet; the bikini-clad single mother Violet Kim, 27; and Steve Kim, 25, who wears a mohawk.
We don’t actually hear most of them talk except for Jasmine Chang and what appears to be Jennifer Field at the end. After screaming a song at a karaoke bar, she exits exclaiming, “I just tore that place up like I tear up every place in K-Town!” She has a remarkably annoying, over-articulated voice (is she a wanna-be newscaster?!) and that one line gave me the impression that she’s totally self-absorbed and for no good reason. Why so defensive? Why was it so important she prove to someone that she could “tear it up?” And really, who cares?
Tyrese put together the production with three Asian Americans who say they want to break stereotypes by showing that we’re just like everyone else. Although many are alarmed at the prospect of seeing loud, outrageous, trashy young people from the community, I’m not that concerned: What’s wrong with seeing buff Asian dudes surrounded by (usually) attractive Asian women? Would we rather see the women surrounded—as usual in TV shows—by white guys?
One community’s stereotype is another community’s godsend. While many Italian Americans protested the cast of “Jersey Shore” saying it reinforced stereotypes about their people, Asian American men are stereotyped as quiet, nerdy, and asexual. Showing us at our gaudy best (worst?) would certainly turn that impression on its ear. If nothing else, we’d see some very bold and confident young Asian Americans who—unlike on countless television shows and movies—don’t need to be saved by nor sacrificed in place of Whitey. And hopefully, Asian women who don’t only want to date white men.
Co-producer Eugene Choi asked The Daily Beast, “Why can’t you see the Asian man get the girl?” He pointed to the ending of Romeo Must Die, where Jet Li didn’t get to kiss his Juliet, Aaliyah—just hug her! Choi’s heart seems to be in the right place. Perhaps a more alarming concern is if this series doesn’t get picked up for broadcast. While it could be because it’s a crappy production with uninteresting people, my first guess would be Hollywood assumes not enough people would watch an all (or pretty close to it) Asian American cast. Maybe they’d wanna see more of the ladies and less of the men.
This is what it comes down to: You don’t have to actually like the people in “K-Town” to appreciate the greater good they could do for our community. In much the same way, you won’t catch me dead watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” But I’m glad Sandra Oh’s there being her usual imperfect self reminding viewers that we’re in mainstream positions, don’t all talk with accents, and are just as relatable as any white or black person.