Canada is known as a multicultural country, accepting of all religions and cultures, making it a country which is ‘as diverse as it possibly can be’.
So, why did it take until 2016 for a show focusing on those of an Asian background to become so popular? Well, let’s just say, we are glad that it finally did, because we wouldn’t be happy without Jung’s ‘steamy’ presence on our screens.
Who is Jung might you ask? Well, let’s start from the beginning. ‘Kim’s Convenience’ is a Canadian sitcom based in Toronto, focusing on a Korean-Canadian family that owns a convenience store in the Moss Park area. The show is based on a stage play of the same name, developed by Ins Choi in 2011.
‘Umma’ (mother in Korean, played by Korean-Canadian Jean Yoon), and ‘Appa’ (father in Korean; played by Korean-Canadian Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), are the main protagonists, dealing with the daily misgivings of their two children, Jung (played by Chinese-Canadian Simu Liu), and Janet (played by Korean-Canadian Andrea Bang).
Throw in a few other characters, such as Jung’s co-worker and friend Kimchee (played by Vietnamese-Canadian Andrew Phung), and Jung’s manager, or shall we say ‘love interest’, Shannon (played by Canadian Nicole Power). Included are secondary characters from the convenience store, church functions, and school.
But let’s analyze Jung here for a bit, shall we? At 24-years old, Jung is a high-school dropout, who decides to pursue his GED (high-school equivalency diploma) after becoming an Assistant Manager at Handy Car Rental.
He is portrayed as your typical jock; sloppy and self-centered, with a knack for luring beautiful women to his apartment. Some may say that his portrayal of being Korean is ‘spot-on’, with a Korean flag in his apartment, to eating noodles on a regular basis.
However, we can also say that he tends to be very non-Asian, to his taste in women, or his choice of lifestyle (e.g. dropping out of high-school, drinking, working-out regularly, etc.) Is it fair to say that all Asian men should stay-in-school, study hard, and not drink?
If that’s the case, then why is Jung so different from your ‘typical’ Asian male? Is it to possibly draw-in a larger audience base, or to show how Asians can be just like non-Asians; trying to conform despite the stereotypes they usually face? It’s hard to say, so, let’s move on for now.
Jung has a very typical ‘Asian’ name, which gives away his nationality immediately. However, his sister, Janet, has a western name, which goes to show how the west tend to see Asian women ‘in need of integrating’.
Jung, on the other hand, as an Asian male, is excluded from this notion, which highly-stresses his ‘otherness’, pointing out that he is of Asian descent, and everyone knows based solely on his name. We also see this in Kimchee, Jung’s friend and co-worker. With a name like Kimchee, we all think of the cabbage-delicacy that is well-known for being served in all Korean restaurants. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Now, it’s time to delve into Jung’s love life. At Handy Car Rental, Jung meets Shannon, and is instantly smitten, despite her quirkiness and desperation to be the center-of-attention. But, there’s a catch (isn’t there always?); Shannon is dating Alejandro, and Jung is forced to keep his feelings bottled-up.
The series goes on with Shannon and Jung eyeing each other quietly, the audience knowing of their secret admirations for one another. Each week, we sit on the edge of our seats, hoping for Jung to admit how he truly feels. We finally get what we really want, but it all ends in disaster; Jung ends up on the hook yet again, while Shannon storms-off in a rage.
Why is this the case? Well, certainly Shannon ‘likes’ Jung, but is afraid to admit it. Is it because of a conflict of interest in the workplace? Or, maybe she just isn’t sure she wants to take that next step, branch out to lovers as opposed to co-workers? Could it be that because he is Asian, she isn’t really interested in dating him? Maybe she is attracted to his ‘bad-boy’ persona, rather than his nationality, which is rarely mentioned between them.
We don’t really know, and possibly we will never know. Regardless, we are happy to see a WWAM couple making the spotlight, whether Jung and Shannon ever do make-it. But we have to admit, they are wonderful to look at together, aren’t they? (or maybe just Jung…..)
Where’s Wang is WWAM BAM!’s bi-weekly column
“For the most part, what we see of Asian male sexuality is the assertion of a stronger Western virility at the expense of Asian masculinity. In short, the imagery takes Asian men lightly, as less-serious competitors for women, and less-competent fighters.” Sheridan Prasso, The Asian Mystique
The “Where’s Wang” tag allows us at WWAM BAM! to review how present this bias is within sitcoms and other tv shows having come out of the Hollywood machine (and other media) over the past few years, and review any media through an AMWF lens.