While Western media is primarily considered to be a solely American product, Canada is major player in producing film and television. One such Canadian production is the CBC sitcom, Kim’s Convenience.
The show – which finished its first season in December and will begin its second season in the Fall – is based on a play by Asian-Canadian Ins Choi, and revolves around a Korean family living in Toronto. While still a sitcom, with light-hearted and clever comedy, Kim’s Convenience does not pigeonhole their characters as just immigrants – they are not perpetual foreigners. Rather, they are complex characters who are also immigrants.
Unlike many other family-based sitcoms, Kim’s Convenience does not center around a white family, or around an Asian family through a white perspective. And, rather than creating stereotyped roles for Asian immigrant characters to be made fun of, the show makes jokes through the characters rather than about them.
Furthermore, as discussed by Constance Wu, one of the harmful aspects of stereotyping roles is when the stereotype creates a “one-dimensional person” – or, when this character does not have a personality outside of the stereotype they are portraying.
“It’s a stereotype if there’s a Chinese waiter with an accent who is really cheap and greedy and has two lines. But if the whole TV show is about this man, then it moves from caricature to character.” –Ins Choi
Kim’s Convenience not only averaged 933,000 viewers per episode, but has also won multiple awards, including several ACTRA and Canadian Screen Awards. Though not as overtly popular as Fresh Off the Boat (due mainly to the fact that Kim’s Convenience is distributed solely through a Canadian channel), Kim’s Convenience is a huge success in its own right. This is a tribute to the success of strong, well-developed Asian characters in North American film and television.
It is important that not only Hollywood, but that North American media in general create Asian roles that are not based solely in stereotype. Asian characters must be as well-developed and complex as white characters so often are in film and television, and should not only exist to be made the butt of jokes.
Though Asian representation in American media is lacking, attention is being drawn to issues such as the stereotyping and the whitewashing of roles. The goal is, with so much attention on these subjects, that change will keep progressing.