This is something that’s been growing on my mind ever since the podcast and I’ve been struggling with how to say it or even what exactly to say about it. A lot of this might sound defensive or even reproachful, though I really hope it doesn’t, because it’s 150% not about being defensive or reproachful and just laying out things that I wish I had been remotely eloquent enough to express at the time.
I feel like we were rather critical about Mike Chang’s storyline in Asian F. At the time I even actually felt myself being swayed by that criticism just because it all felt so valid. And, again, I really don’t want to sound like I’m rebuking anything anyone said about it during the podcast, moreover it’s entirely possible that I’m simply not truly understanding peoples’ concerns about it, and I apologize if I misrepresent them in my attempt to lay all this out.
Because the truth is that I find myself rather incredibly protective of Mike Chang’s storyline that began in Asian F. Taken entirely on its own narrative merits, I feel like Mike’s struggles with his parents was a very genuine, rewarding arc that was absolutely not phoned-in in any way by the writers. And as I mentioned, something similar to Mike’s situation happened to myself. But far moreso than that, I feel like this is a very important storyline to tell regardless of how many “stereotypical” buttons it hits.
Because if this is stereotypical, where are all the other shows doing this? Where’s all that other media depicting Asian families with all their earnest, uncomfortable complications? Where are all the other stories of shy Chinese-American boys and girls breaking away from familial expectations to pursue the arts? We call these things clichéd depictions of quote-unquote #Asianproblems and yet we never see them. They are invisible, unrepresented. If Glee is doing this wrong then who is doing it right?
Once upon a very hella long time ago, I compared Mike Chang to Kurt Hummel in the sense that the same judgmental, societal forces that compelled Kurt to hide who he really was were similar forces to those that made Mike afraid to dance outside his own room. And if Kurt Hummel is a story that deserves to be told then I think Mike is as well, with all its racial and social cliches in all their politically-incorrect glory. I think we take for granted that boys who look like Mike Chang don’t need to see him standing up to his father or finding common ground with his mother like he does…but they do.
In that light, I honestly don’t think there was anything wrong with the depiction of Mike or the Changs in that storyline. Or…actually, let me rephrase: I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that storyline if it existed in a vacuum, if it weren’t the first and only storyline Mike ever really had on the show…as in, Asian F wouldn’t be objectionable at all if placing 1/2 of the token Asians into a Kinda Asian Situation wasn’t the only substantial thing Glee ever did with that Asian.
It hearkens back to the infamous Gangnam Style Dilemma. Query: If Glee gives the Korean pop song to their one Korean-American actress, are they being racist? But if Glee didn’t give the Korean pop song to their one Korean-American actress, wouldn’t that actually make them racist? Which one is actually them doing it wrong? Answer: Neither, because that’s the wrong query. The real query is why their one Korean-American actress hasn’t had more songs before they wanted to do this one Korean song, because this wouldn’t be an issue at all if she did. That’s what made it questionable.
Likewise with Asian F. An earnest, satisfying storyline where a character’s race matters becomes stereotyping that character when he doesn’t really exist outside of that storyline. But, at least to me, the influential importance of that earnest, satisfying storyline kind of overshadows the typecasty nature of it.
~peace and all dat shite~