We’re a diverse group, and we prefer to call ourselves by our ethnicities. It’s
who we are. But as Asian American, or the ultra-inclusive AAPI (my preference)
or AANHPI, we can’t forget that our real power comes when we’re positively
ASIAN AMERICANS GOOD AT NUMBERS
That we’re even here at all is pretty amazing. And that’s the most unappreciated
story of 2015.
For Asian Americans, it’s hard to look at this past year without an appreciation
Personally, as I’ve pondered the murder of my
I’ve wondered if Asian American lives still matter.
Real life is tough still. Fake life?
It’s another story.
THE REVOLUTION IS BEING TELEVISED
As a former TV reporter in a three-network era, I know the power of TV. But I
was too dumb to understand why older people often came up to me in San Francisco
and thanked me. They had never seen a real live Filipino on TV before.
Like that was important?
But in 2015, Filipinos and Asian Americans seem to be all over the place and not
just on the ethnic channels.
Yes, that was Vanessa Lachey, nee Minnillo, the former Filipino American teen
queen (born in the Air Force Hospital in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines) on
an NBC prime time sitcom, “Truth Be Told.”
Later in the year, when “FOTB” returned, for a second go-round, I wasn’t sure
about the story lines and characters. But I noticed it was less about the kids,
and more about the parents and grandma. Better. The show isn’t “Leave it to
Beaver.” It’s “Father Knows Best.”
“FOTB” is still a sitcom, and by my laugh-meter standard, there were way more
laughs on the critically misunderstood “Dr. Ken.”
I’ve written about Ken Jeong
in other publications, like KoreAm back in 2009. He was funny before you were
doing the whip and the Nae-Nae (so 2015). His show isn’t an arty sitcom in the
Louis CK auteur vein, and it may have less of a message than “FOTB,” but the
laughs in “Dr. Ken” will improve your abs.
As good as those two shows were, the winner for taking the modern sitcom up one
more notch is Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None.” The second episode on parents and
the comparative stories of fathers was an especially good episode and worth
In 2015, Ansari has proven to be the jack of
everything. He sold out multiple shows in Madison Square Garden; Came out with a
book, “Modern Romance,” on dating and relationships in June; Was on the finale
of “Parks and Rec” on NBC; And he wrote an essay
on modern casting’s continuing diversity problem in the arts section of the
Sunday New York Times.
He was even lauded by PETA for speaking out against eggs and factory
(Disclosure: my wife is a PETA executive.)
Aziz is building a kind of celebrity that could make a difference as he
continues to mature and grow and becomes more outspoken in his projects, both in
and out of show business.
His collaboration with Alan Yang on “Master of None” is just a harbinger of the
new ground he’s breaking for Asian Americans.
I’ve always liked Aziz’s standup act. But “Master of None” was historic from the
opening shot, where Aziz is seen having sex with an attractive white female
without benefit of working condom (always a comic trigger).
OK, it was on Netflix.
But when was the last time you saw an Asian American male do that?
Even the groundbreaking “Girls” still thinks Asian guys are all “gaysians.”
For all that, Aziz is my Asian American person of the year. Is there any Asian
American male who is more in your face visible right now in the mainstream
media? This is what I mean about building for the future. There just aren’t many
Asian Americans who have the kind of name recognition that Aziz has now. And at
age 32, he has what in the old days of tech used to be called “up side.” With
Aziz, it’s way-up.
He may even kick off 2016 in a big way. The Golden Globes are on Jan. 10, and
Aziz is up for Best Actor, television series, musical or comedy.
In the age of U.S. Islamophobia, that would be a positively monolithic event for
all of us in the New Year.
THANK YOU DEAR READERS
In 2010, at the Asian American Journalists Association convention in, of all
places, Hollywood, land of broken dreams, I began a conversation with AALDEF’s
Margaret Fung. It ended up with the migration of my “Amok” column from the now
defunct “Asian Week” to this very blog.
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.