So after four months of dragging my feet I finally got around to watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a Netflix exclusive show I had been meaning to check out if only to join in the conversation that Em Liu over at Fiction Diversity started surrounding the character of Dong Nguyen, played by Ki Hong Lee. Before I really get into things it has come to my attention that I can be negative, so allow me to preface this post with a list [CAUTION: spoilers from here onwards]:
1. I liked [and continue to like] Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It not only succeeds, but soars on the merits of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s comedy as well as Ellie Kemper’s unbridled performance.
2. I’m grateful a character like Dong Nguyen exists. Asian characters are rare enough on TV, let alone as romantic leads [something we desperately need].
3. I wish nothing but the best for Ki Hong Lee and have absolutely nothing against the guy. Similar to how I feel about Austin Falk on 2 Broke Girls my criticisms of a character do not affect my opinions about the actor portraying them. I think it’s great that he made #4 on People‘s 2014 Sexiest Man Alive list and hope it’s the first milestone of many.
I also want to mention that Em, whose article I linked to up above, has primarily approached Dong Nguyen as a character who subverts, instead of embodies, stereotypes. That’s ultimately not something I’m going to be delving into. Instead what I’d like to address is how Dong holds up as a believable Asian character, specifically as a Vietnamese person, and how this reflects on the show’s creators. Continue reading