Tag Archives: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

2016’s Cultural Battleground – Evan’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end each year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2016 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.


To directly quote my co-writer, “**** this year” has been an increasingly common sentiment as the days tick by, but even given the relentless, overwhelming flood of bad news that 2016 has embodied what’s particularly depressing to consider is how little some things have changed. It’s also telling that in spite of us collectively writing more blog posts than last year I’m left feeling like I wrote less, and that what was written is generally of a lower quality as well.

With that in mind and given the handful of bright spots I managed to find I decided to address this year and my coverage of it a little differently by using the “sandwich approach”. Instead of being presented in chronological order below are two positive aspects to 2016 that bookend what amounts to one singular, continuous problem, and one that I take very personally.

tf2overwatchThere’s something beautiful about the way a team can run like a well-oiled machine, each of its separate components working in unison to efficiently accomplish a shared goal. While not always my experience with Overwatch those moments, especially when with friends, have been highlights of my year.

With this post I took a closer look at Blizzard’s latest FPS that, since the time of this post being written, has grown the number of playable female characters to roughly 50%, and its place as part of a growing push in video games to expand beyond the male-only titles of the past.

kimmyasianUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a high point of 2015, a Netflix-exclusive sitcom with an unassailably positive young woman at its core. It even took up one of my slots in my last year in review post, where I praised them for including an Asian love interest while scrutinizing how much they truly valued the verisimilitude needed to portray them correctly.

One tragedy of 2016 is that I was never able to make it past the third episode of its second season, the reason being that Tina Fey et al. created twenty-some minutes of television that dragged those who value Asian American representation before running them over with a steamroller, and then putting it in reverse. Friends assure me that it gets better, but how could it not after falling to such great depths? Continue reading

“Kimmy Goes to a Play” as a Conversation Between Tina Fey and Asian American Activists

The culture war is a conversation.

While it is ultimately a conflict, more often than not this takes the form of ideas and criticism being slung back and forth across the trenches. To be heard is a minor success, but to be actually understood is victory.

Within this conversation it’s undoubtedly artists, especially those who have garnered celebrity status, who have the most powerful voices.


In 2014 the eponymous host of The Colbert Report featured a segment on his show about “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. Given his popularity it reached far and wide, and was eventually viewed by a Twitter activist who created the hashtag #CancelColbert in response.

chingchongcolbert

As it was meant to call attention to and ridicule the outrageous fact that a national sports team is named after an ethnic slur the response was out of line. It was a classic case of [obvious] satire being taken the wrong way, but by inadvertently contributing to what has been dubbed “a fake year of outrage’ this person’s misstep resulted in others who campaign for better representation and the like being worse than silenced, which is to say, ignored.

Despite calling out from what is ostensibly the same side, the misstep of a single loud voice meant that others were unheard.


The exchange between artist and critic is rarely ever an even one, and only becomes more difficult given the sensitivity surrounding such personal creative endeavours.

Lena Dunham is the star and creator of HBO’s Girls, and received enough disapproval about the lack of diversity in a show set in New York City that she was asked about it by NPR. She responded that “[she takes] that criticism very seriously,” and that very same year had Donald Glover playing Hannah’s Black boyfriend on the show.

While the presence of Sandy on the dramedy was a beneficial one, with arguments between the two capturing the tension that can be present in interracial relationships [including such exchanges as: “I never thought about the fact that you were black once.” / “That’s insane. You should, because that’s what I am.”], Glover’s character faltered in that he was very much a response to criticism. Continue reading

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Unbelievable Dong Nguyen

dongSo 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