In a recent blog post, Asian-American journalist Emil Guillermo lamented that in the last two weeks “the most marketable and best-known Asian- Americans in the country — hoop star Jeremy Lin and TV anchor Ann Curry — are given the boot from their Big Apple perch.”
“And we’re not supposed to take it personally as an affront to our sense of diversity? It’s insanity,” wrote Guillermo on the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund website.
When it comes to counting diverse faces in mainstream media and popular culture, the numbers of minorities are so small that it hurts when even just two disappear. Still, in a flip of the old idiom, this year Asian-Americans have taken more steps forward than back, finally breaking out of their role as bit players in the American experience.
This came to mind Saturday as my family and I watched a preview of TBS’ new sitcom “Sullivan & Son,” a show about an Irish-Korean attorney who returns home to Pittsburgh to take over his parent’s “Cheers”-style bar.
Maybe because, by marriage, half of my family is Asian, with another large contingent having vague inklings of Irish descent, I found the premise of this diversely cast cross-cultural family comedy to be especially appealing. It has the potential to showcase the rapidly growing population of interracial and interethnic families.
Obviously, I could be wrong. Early reviews have been mixed with some critics enjoying the quirky cast and others concerned that it relies too heavily on multicultural stereotypes. Ultimately, “Sullivan & Son” could bomb like a couple of major network sitcoms featuring Hispanics recently did, but even this would be a sort of progress.
Sure, Jeremy Lin and Ann Curry have moved on — and Lin’s new three-year $25.1 million gig will surely be a boon to all of Houston, not just the 6 percent that is the Asian community — but they’re still out there, very successfully representing what the Pew Research Center recently lauded as the “highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.”
It can’t be ignored that Pew’s celebratory designation drew criticism from Asian-American advocacy organizations across the country rightly concerned that the report, “The Rise of Asian-Americans,” cemented the “model minority” myth, basically overlooking the incredibly diverse nature of a community with its own share of poverty and struggle.
Asians and Hispanics increasingly find themselves with the responsibility of being myth-busters, but it’s still good to be part of the conversation. And it’s definitely a prickly one.
After the preview, there was a commercial called “House of Flying Laptops” which was a play on the sword-fighting movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” There will certainly be differing views on whether the spot delightfully honored a pop culture phenomenon or exploited a tired Asian stereotype.
That’s OK. Let there be discussion along with celebration that there is, at least, something to talk about.