Kudos to "Lost" on Asian American Representation
Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim on "Lost"
Since Hawaii's population is largely Asian or Pacific Islander (per the 2000 U.S. Census, 41.6% Asian, 9.4% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 21.4% 2 or more races), y'all might be interested in the following recent findings about Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs) on prime time network TV.
The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC) recently issued a report on “Asian Pacific Americans in Prime Time.” NAPALC is part of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, which has been tracking the progress of the major TV networks for 5 years in the following areas: total number of APIA actors, writers, directors, development contracts, and executives, as well as procurement from APIA-owned companies and the level and scope of their outreach efforts.
"Asian Americans in Prime Time" examines data and assesses how well the major networks fulfill their oft-touted promises to improve the quality and complexity of APIA characters. Here are some of the report's findings:
- Only 13 out of 113 prime time network series feature at least one APIA actor, and fewer of these feature them prominently. (APIA as token)
- Although diversity in network programming is growing, APIAs continue to have small and superficial roles written specifically for race/ethnicity. APIAs also continue to be simplistically portrayed as isolated and asexual. (marginalization and stereotyping of APIAs)
- Regular characters portrayed by APIA actors are absent from shows set in heavily APIA-populated areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and severely underrepresented in places like Hawaii and New York City.
- There are 3 exemplary programs that feature regular Asian American cast members with developed roles that are integral to the plot:
1. Lost (ABC) - Stars Naveen Andrews, an Indian Briton born and raised in London; Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean American raised in Pennsylvania; and Yunjin Kim, a Korean/Korean American raised in Seoul and NYC. Also, the episode featuring Daniel and Yunjin's love story was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach, a Latino. FYI, if you didn't already know, "Lost" is shot (but not set) here in Hawaii.
2. E.R. (NBC) - Stars Parminder Nagra, an Indian Briton born and raised in England, and formerly starred Ming-Na, a Chinese American raised in NYC and Pittsburgh.
3. Gilmore Girls (WB) - Stars Keiko Agena, a Japanese American born and raised in Honolulu (she wen' grad Mid-Pac!).
- Honorable mentions include recently cancelled "Hawaii" (NBC) and "Star Trek Enterprise" (UPN). But I must note that while "Hawaii" did star APIAs Aya Sumika, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, some of the show's storylines and plot elements related to Hawaiian culture and history were inaccurate at best and extremely offensive at worst.
>> Asian Pacific Americans in Prime Time: Lights, Camera and Little Action [Asian American Press, 9/9/05]
>> NAPALC's TV Diversity Publications & Materials
>> 'Lost' actress is no timid Asian woman, after all [L.A. Times, 5/4/05 (re-printed Hnl Adv, 5/11)]
>> Importance of 'Lost' role not lost on Kim [Hnl Advertiser, 3/16/05]
>> At home with 'Lost' [Hnl Advertiser, 11/3/04]
>> Hawai'i on TV lacks state's racial diversity [Hnl Advertiser, 7/5/04]
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