Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ms. Rimes, I thought you loved me but what's the deal?

Have you ever felt that sickening squelching when your trust for someone just implodes? You know who they are through and through and you always take their perspective and defend them come what may? One day, immersed in a new context, the light hits them a little differently and you realized the vision you had of them, the excuses you made for them, really just don't look justifiable anymore.

I think this feeling is most familiar to us who live as minorities immersed in majority culture. In the states, we live and love amidst a dominant perspective which assumes our inferiority, but we also live hopeful that the power of our individual relationships trump those embedded prejudices.

There are many of these moments with absolute lucidity--that moment when my loved one took her racist stepfather's side on a dispute or when that friend I thought was super-close explained to me, "These days a lot of minorities are too sensitive about race".

The love is still there and you go through the motions dreaming of some scenario where they whip out some beautiful, completely understandable reasoning behind their actions, but the joy and confidence you felt before has been replaced by that dull, nauseating pain of impending betrayal. The feeling is so bad, it makes you want to just avoid the society all together--"Maybe if I just avoid anyone who this might happen with, I can never feel this again!"

But we all know that's not the most healthy response--it's not even possible to execute.

If you made it this far, I'm sorry to drone on morosely like this. I guess the only way to rid myself of this feeling is to explain.

I watched Grey's Anatomy again tonight, and if you've read my earlier write-up of the show, I have been floored by the dialogue writing, love the diversity in cast, and especially love the way the racial issues have been written. But I did have this troublesome hanging worry even as I attempted to defend the show from the charges that it, like every other show on television, has an allergy to Asian American male characters.

This week's episode was a complete trainwreck of a travesty of an injustice on these issues, and I really don't know what to say except ask, "WHY? WHY? HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?"

I tried to just write it off when several episodes ago there Dr. Yang's mother appeared and shared her happiness in divorcing Christina's father and remarrying some old white dude, but this week you had an eighteen year-old Asian American girl with special needs appear with an Asian American mother and a father played by Frances Guinan. Who is Frances Guinan? I didn't know before I did a little research, but it appears that he's a very accomplished actor, who isn't Asian American, unless of course, they were in the habit of hiring Asian American actors to play Klu Klux Klansman in 1997. Really, I'm not making this up. He played "Klansman #2" in George Wallace in 1997. There's no explanation for the casting whatsoever--they just decided to have no Asian American father.

The daughter is attracted to the annoying ex-wrestler intern with the heart of absolutely not-gold for inexplicable reason. The kid is in for some rountine procedure, but the dorky surgeon Derek(who we still want to throw something at the screen when he even as much as tries to look at the main character) wants her to consider an operation that will help her live more independently. I thought the handling of the special needs issues were pretty good, especially for network TV, but I'd be curious what others have to say about this. What bothered me was how the kid's sex life is brought up repeatedly.

The mother is written as controlling and wants to shelter her daughter. The good white father tells her to whiten, I mean lighten up and wants her to consider the operation. Derek sends the Dr. Karev (the wrestler-dude) with her to try to convince her to consider the procedure. The writing on their attraction is utterly non-convincing and culminates with her asking him to present her with her first kiss. He refuses and gives her some wisdom about first kisses, and then she returns to show her mom who's boss.

I'm sick. I want answers or blood or something. Ms. Rimes has written and spoken beautifully about her efforts to create an ethically diverse and succesful show. If you haven't, check out this interview with her by Ed Gordon.

So what the hell happened? Is this a case where Ms. Rimes just wasn't sensitive to issues in the Asian American community? Is it a case where a fresh new writer passed some aversively racist stuff through editing on a day that only the white people came into a work?

Really, I just want to know what happened, and against all logic, I still hope there is a good explanation there somewhere? Tell me something--I've got it all wrong, next week the powerful Asian American male characters start rolling out, something...


Blogger powerpolitics said...

You know, I was watching the show tonight and thinking, "That's a hell of a lot of Asian Americans in one show. And for two weeks running!"

But you're right, I've been in hospitals where it seems like ALL the doctors are Asian American males (East or South, take your pick.)

Now that you bring it up, I notice there are no Latinos, male or female.

I hope they have some good plots involving more Asian American males, but I will still support the show for now. Besides, it's got a lot more going for it than Alias, plotwise currently, and the only Asian American male I remember from Alias is creepy dentist man. Way to combine TWO stereotpyes: the menacing inscrutable "Oriental" doctor!

1:27 AM  
Blogger Gar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:09 AM  
Blogger Gar said...

I haven't been watching Greg's Anatomy regularly, but man, that episode sounds straight up racist.

It's a funny coincidence that you prefaced this entry with a few paragraphs about the sense of betrayal you feel when a loved one flashes a glimpse of bigoted behavior, because my mother sort of ticked me off tonight while I watching "The Boondocks" cartoon on Cartoon Network as it was lampooning a party of rich white Southerners - her comment to me was, "You should be careful the things you watch... it reinforces your bad impressions of white people!"

I just about laughed my ass off there as I responded, "My bad impressions of white people don't come from cartoons... they come from my life!" Pshht.

2:09 AM  
Blogger xian said...

PP: Yeah, I had noticed the Latina/o American vacuum on the show too. I assumed (too quickly) that there probably weren't too many folks in Seattle.

Upon further research Seattle Demographics, it looks like almost 6% of the population of Latina/o American (or non-white Hispanic depending on self-identification). Of course, the choice to stage the show in super-white Seattle was also a choice.

In my memory, the only important part to go to a Latino/a actor was the fiance of trainwreck victim. It was a tiny role, but huge in emotional significance--while our major characters flounder in their attempts at love, this young white woman has found complete and utter love with her man, in a LM/WF relationship. He comes across as something special despite miniscule screen time.

I like your post because it reminds me to look at both sides--relative and absolute. Absolutely, I still am asking WTF? and am unsatisfied with the representation on the show.

But relatively, I'm still thankful to have a show with some kind of minority representation and especially writing by minority writer empathetic to minority perspectives. I just want some answers or growth or something.

I don't seem to have much of an audience right now, but I'd love to get a thread going of these moments where we realize what's up in terms of those around us and their racial perspectives. Thanks for sharing yours. Being mixed, it might sound a little weird to say, but when I first read Malcolm's autobiography and he said that he didn't trust white people because he'd never met one who didn't treat him terrible, it really resonated.

Now, I suppose it's a little different, or maybe I just don't focus on race exclusively anymore and I've realized that we are all a untrustworthy when we use our social programming instead of our capacities for empathy.

If you get a moment, I'd suggest taking the show in. I don't get cable, but from reading McGruder's comic, I imagine that you get the same high off of watching "Boondocks" as some of us get off of "Grey's Anatomy". It's just so rare and wonderful to see a minority perspective on TV--that's why it hurts doubly when that perspective goes down the same old roads on issues close to home...

11:33 AM  

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