Teen and Chris out themselves as male fans of HBO’s Girls. They also talk about how differently Asian men and women seem to be portrayed in not only this show, but other young women-led shows and movies like Ingrid Goes West, Insecure, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Are Asian guys getting their time in the spotlight, and is it coming at the expense of Asian women?
The following are edited excerpts from “Shoshanna Loves The Asian Boys”, the 10th episode of Plan A’s podcast, Escape From Plan A.
During the first season, without evening watching this show, I loathed it so much. Because the characters of Hannah and Marnie were born in the same year I was. These were people I went to college with, I knew these types of people and I didn’t like them. So why the hell do they get a show? I don’t want to watch this shit. But then you watch it, and then you realize — especially when you compare it with other shows that tried to depict this age group — I don’t think any other show was as relentlessly self-critical.
The guy who played Desi should win a White Dude Award. He’s a good sport, man. Because that is not a flattering character.
You look at how the two Asian female characters in the show are presented essentially as competition. One is professional competition for Hannah and one is professional/social competition for Marnie. And then Shoshanna goes to Japan for work and her boss is this young Japanese guy named Yoshi. They have a little relationship, but funny enough, she comes back to America and I guess she can’t forget Yoshi because she marries an Asian guy. So if you contrast that, you’ve got two Asian women who are competition to the white female characters, and the two Asian guys who are presented as love interests.
Maybe the social visibility and social importance of Asian women are more clearly defined. Lena Dunham in that essay, for example, revealed that there’s a significance to the concept of an Asian woman in her experience as a white woman. Whereas Asian guys don’t have a social gravity. They’re not affecting the space around them.
Traditionally, if you have the white male center, he’d be centered and the minorities who’d be welcomed into that group is the black best friend, the hot Latina, or the hot Asian chick. That’s what the configuration was for a while. Now you invert it. Now you have the white female lead, as well as black female leads in some other shows. Now that experience is totally reversed.
The fact that the characters in Girls present the way they do is exactly what you’d expect, because the whole point of the show is meant to be so subjectively biased. It’s so biased that it’s almost a feature of the show. It’s an aggressively white show. It’s something you’ve picked up in the past, which I fully agree with: there does need to be space for a white show. But call it white.