I can’t watch Fresh Off the Boat. I really can’t. For the exact same reasons I stopped watching Lena Dunham’s Girls: it’s a whole bunch of memories I can only nervously laugh about. I may have never had to defend my mom’s cooking to my friends (because my Chinese immigrant mom was sensitive about that). But the math thing did happen. And the slanty eyes thing is unavoidable. I also share more than a few of Lena Dunham/Hannah Horvath’s awkward qualities. I am often left cringing from both of those shows from the experience of shared embarrassment. But I am so relieved that they exist and I’m so happy that so many other people with the shared experience do laugh out loud about it.
Basically, it’s a good time to not be a white male. There are plenty of voices on screen these days. Sure, it could be better. But let’s review the last three months: Mindy Kaling (drop mic); Aziz Ansari just released the best thing on Netflix and made Stephen Colbert feel uncomfortable, and the love interest on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is named Josh Fucking Chan! Oh, and you’ve heard of Shonda Rhimes, right? Let’s also not forget the last couple of years, Jane the Virgin and Laverne Cox.
Let’s contrast that with the past. In 1942, Bing Crosby wore black face; in 1961, Mickey Rooney put on yellow-face in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; in 1988, Fisher Stevens put on brown-face; and in 1995, Margaret Cho barely lasted a year. I remember being the most passionate ten year old cinephile the world ever did see. Dreams of being Spielberg. But those dreams were put aside. There was only room for one Asian in the motion picture world. And that was Sandra Oh; who literally had every single role featuring a female of East Asian descent between 1993-1996. And yes, I could have named you every single Asian actor hitting the pavement during the mid-90s. On one hand.
Also, if you ever talked about these issues, or presented a dominant character against stereotype, you were seen as the Angry [Insert Ethnicty] Female. But now, pop culture is being determined by those who are speaking out about it. Audiences are even catching wind of this, and the diverse array of stories and voices are resonating.
Similarly, the world of lifestyle and fashion blogging can also be seen as privileged and monochromatic. But the photographer slash blogger that showed me I could start thinking about this as a career shares my family name (I am still trying to prove we have blood relations).
There are so many voices now. And there are so many stories being told (see everyone that Design*Sponge has covered). The fashion world is realizing that minimalism on the runway might not cut it any more. It’s been simmering away for the past decade. And it took the crescendo that happened in the last couple of months for me to believe it. The world is now more Abundance Bowl than goulash.
Thank you technology for breaking down the borders and letting all the colours rain through. Right now, nine year old Tiff is giving 31 year old Tiff a very loud high five.
And I hope when I have a daughter, none of this will be a big deal.
PS – If you haven’t heard about it already, Master of None. Aziz Ansari. Watch it.