Asian Annie and Asian Jess?

(Imported from: [link])

In the previous season of Community, Annie finds herself in competition with a classmate who’s like an Asian version of herself, and it quickly escalates into a “Model U.N. Battle Royale.”  In the previous season of New girl, Jess finds out that her ex Paul is dating Jenn, who happens to look like the Asian version of her–right after Jess “backslided” and slept with him.

Whoa there.  What just happened?  Two comedy shows used the same theme within a year of each other?  What’s that supposed to mean?

In “The Orientalization of Asian Women in America” by Aki Uchida, she explains how Asian American women were portrayed and stereotyped in media as being over-sexualized and subservient to white men.  This was an objectifying and dehumanizing image which contributed to the dominant white culture’s control of Asian women by portraying them as “others.”  The perpetuation of this stereotype leads to Asian American women being treated as not equal to white women in society.

Well, the Study Group did refer to Asian Annie (the character’s actual name is Annie Kim) as “Other Annie.”  Is that what’s going on?  Are these comedies perpetuating white dominance over Asian Americans?  Let’s look at this more closely.

Asian Jess and Asian Annie aren’t being portrayed as overly sexual like Suzie Wong (Asian Jess is dating a Caucasian, but I think that’s beside the point), they aren’t less than human.  They’re just the same as their Caucasian counterparts, except they’re Asian.

But what purpose do they serve in their shows?  Why have an Asian version of a main character for an episode?

In the Community episode, Annie’s competition with her Asian self climaxes when they’re head to head in the Model U.N. battle and someone on Annie’s side farts, distracting the study group.  After Annie freaks out and leaves, Jeff consoles her by saying it wasn’t her fault for being childish and wanting to “destroy” Asian Annie, but his for pushing her to do so because he cares for her.  They come back to the Battle, regroup, and propose to Asian Annie’s team that their two worlds come together in a peaceful agreement to become the United United Nations. (Confused about that last part?  Blame Love Abed.)

Well that’s cool, right?  Annie and Asian Annie coming together as equals.  But that’s not what happens.  Failing to grasp the conceptual significance of her decision, Asian Annie takes the practical route and says no, thus losing the battle.

Score one for white dominance.

In the New girl episode, Jess feels horrible for being the girl that Paul cheated on Jenn with.  She revisits him at his classroom to convince him to tell his girlfriend what happened or else she will, knowing that that’s what she would’ve wanted if she were in Jenn’s position.  He only complicates the situation by telling Jess that he was planning on proposing to Jenn to marry him. And then Jenn walks in.  Just as Jess is about to leave, Paul spills the beans.  Just as Jenn is about to leave, Jess tells Jenn “I thought you were Asian me, but now I realize I’m just Caucasian you” (Confused again?  Even Jenn and Paul said “What?”).  Jess then convinces Jenn that she’s still in love and shouldn’t let what happened between Jess and Paul affect their relationship, then helps Paul propose to Jenn.  And she said yes!

Aw, well that wasn’t so bad.  Things ended well for Jenn, she’s going to get married to Paul and it’s all thanks to Jess.  And now Jess is going to solve things in her own life by going to her friend Nick to tell him not to backslide with his ex, knowing that it won’t end well for him because it didn’t exactly end well for her and–

Wait a second, what?  Was Asian Jess just a plot device to develop Jess’ character and plotline?  Oh my gosh.  It’s subtle, but it’s there.  Even in 2012, Asians are being “othered” to serve white people’s interests in sitcoms.

Score two for white dominance, zero for Asian equality.

Aaand that’s how an English major tears apart his favorite shows.  But what the hell, I’ll still watch their new seasons, because they’re good shows.  At the end of the day, isn’t that the only thing that matters?  No, I’m actually asking you the question, I have no idea.

One thought on “Asian Annie and Asian Jess?

  1. Dark Matter

    This is interesting. Two shows placing the same outcome or thought together. Amazing now how we can notice these things that we normally wouldn’t put much mind to.
    In answer to your question:
    I believe that today, as well as even public broadcasting, everything is focused on getting their viewing numbers up. They also provide shows they feel the audience wants to see per say. Thus, these shows are great to watch because, not only is it what we want to see but sad to say, having some stereotypes make it better or acceptable to the people watching.

    – David A. Guzman

    Reply

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