Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Just Once, Make Me Claire Huxtable

Act 183: Redefine the dragon lady in your mind.

What's that?  A new sitcom on cable TV about a bi-racial guy, who is half-Korean and runs a bar in Pittsburgh?   Are you sure he's half-Asian, speaks without an exaggerated accent, has sex-appeal, and really has the lead?  And his parents also play prominent roles?  And he has a sister?  All together, that's a total of TWO entire Asians playing the main characters on a major cable network sitcom.  Awesome. 

Or so, I thought.  Until I actually sat down to watch it, after weeks and weeks of eager anticipation.  True, the lead character, Steve Sullivan is half-Korean and half Irish-American.  True, he left his hot-shot lawyer job in NYC and moved back home to Pittsburgh to run his parents' bar.  There was such potential with this.  It was produced by Vince Vaughn, people!  Was it too much for me to expect intelligent, sarcastic, witty humor, sans cheap exploitations of predictable stereotypes?  Too much to expect something actually worth staying up past my weeknight bedtime?  I was hoping for a glimpse of how the world might see my own half-Asian son (who is currently only 5) as a grown man one day. But more than ever, I was secretly hoping for a glimpse of how the world might see his Asian-American mother. 

Meet OK Cha Sullivan.  She's Korean.  She's shrewd.  Of course she speaks with a thick Korean accent, and is highly critical of all things associated with her son (including the white girls that he dates).  Not surprising, she is the quintessential emotionless tiger mom.  According to TBS's website, she's also a "frugal immigrant" who is overbearing, painfully inappropriate, and doesn't hesitate to speak her mind.

I cringed when I watched the first episode. Exactly like I did when I watched the first episode of short-lived sitcom with Margaret Cho, All American Girl, back in 1994.   Just once, I hoped to see an Asian mom who didn't fit this bill.  You know, like an Asian Claire Huxtable. You may recall Claire as the matriarch of the Cosby Show - an elegant, confident, intelligent lawyer, who was also a loving mother and an equal contributing partner in the Huxtable marriage.  But I got OK Cha Sullivan instead.   So, I did what I always do when this happens, I cancelled my recurring recordings of all new episodes.  It took a few decades to finally cast a smart, masculine, tall, outspoken Asian male in a lead role.  I guess it's going to take a few more decades to cast his mother as anything but the dragon lady.

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