Perhaps you have heard the term “Yappie,” if not, it means a young Asian professional with a well-paid job and a pretty stable and fashionable lifestyle. As an Asian American, we are often taught to live a certain way: go to college, get a good job, marry someone (preferably Asian) and start and provide for the family. This summer Wong Fu Productions created a show entitled “Yappie” to start a conversation of what it’s like growing up as an Asian American. The show covers important issues that Asian Americans face, everything from race, family culture and certain expectations that are put upon us. The following sections outline the titles of each episode.
Starting with the pilot episode, the actors delve into the definition of what it means to be Asian American. In a slam poem, an actor explains the common associations of being Asian, such as being the token Asian actor in white dominant movies, the smart kid you tried to cheat off of at school and of course being sexually fetishized. Asian Americans are often called the “Model Minority” but in reality we are actually more of an “Invisible Minority” or even an “Afterthought Minority.”
Nobody really asks about us because they think they know us. On the surface it seems as if we are well off compared to other minorities, seen our higher economic and social standing, but that doesn’t mean we don’t face the same types of discrimination and microaggressions as other people of color. The episode goes on to talk about how some Asian Americans often choose the safe route. Although there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, what comes into question is whether or not that is what we truly want or if we are merely following the path that our parents expect from us.
2. Bad Asian
As you can tell from the title, the second episode tackles some of the stereotypes of Asians, such as how we all love dim sum and pho, and if we don’t like it, we are “bad Asians.” Just because we are Asian, doesn’t mean we can’t crave western culture. Furthermore, the episode focuses again on the idea of playing it safe. It follows the main character Andrew as he takes his younger cousin to dance classes. The episode features a flashback to when he was a little boy, dancing in front of the T.V. and his mom yelling at him to turn of the “bad kids music” and study for the SATs.
Although this is a ridiculous and overly exaggerated scene, there is some truth to it. Growing up, a lot of Asians were often put into Kumon and were sent to piano or other music lessons instead of being able to pursue other passions. We were told “No” to hip hop and “Yes” to classical. When he goes to drop off his cousin, he ends up staying to watch the class. In this moment, Andrew begins to realize how different it was growing up now versus when he was a kid. He and his other friends weren’t really able to pursue anything creative under their parents supervision, which may have influenced him in choosing his now comfortable lifestyle.
3. Affinity War
Setting it in the workplace, this episode focuses on the conflicting differences between Asian cultures. Because Asia is such an incredibly diverse part of the world, these cultures are often lumped together under one umbrella term: Asian. The episode centers around throwing an event for Asian Pacific American Heritage month and how instead of having one event, money is allocated by specific culture: Korean, South-Asian, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese and so on.
Because of this divide, it is often difficult for Asians to unify and create a stand for themselves unlike other minority groups such as blacks and Hispanics. Even though we have completely different ethnic identities and traditions, as Asian-Americans, we must work together to bring each other up instead of compete against one another. With so much division in the world and having to prove our worth with in this already white dominant society, we should learn to put aside our differences and unite because we are stronger together.
The fourth episode talks about dating as an Asian American. It covers everything from Yellow Fever, sexualizing Asian women versus the emasculation of Asian men in media, to interracial dating. The episode brings up the question of whether or not it is racist to exclude a certain race when dating or to only like dating one race rather than others. As an Asian American, I relate with this episode a lot. It is often assumed that because I am Asian, I am only attracted to other Asians, which is not entirely true.
Furthermore, I am constantly wondering whether or not a guy is into me just because I’m Asian, and me having to wonder that shouldn’t even be happening in the first place. People often date those that they are attracted to, which is often a bit superficial but true. Aside from personality, we can’t help but base the people we like on how they look. What’s important to know when dating, is to make sure that you have the right intentions, that you want to date the person for who they are, not what they look like; and that goes for anyone no matter what your race.
5. The End…For Now
The finale continues on the topic of interracial dating. Andrew has started to date a half-black, half-Japanese woman, who is his younger cousin’s dance instructor. This is the first time he’s not dating someone who isn’t completely Asian. In this episode, he deals with introducing his girlfriend to his friends and going to party with her mainly black friends. Through the episode, the issue of how Asians are often in their own bubble is brought up.
At his girlfriend’s party, he is told racist remarks from her black ex-boyfriend. Here, he sees one viewpoint of how Asians are often seen as privileged compared to other minority groups. The ex-boyfriend says that “Asians are just as bad as white people.” We often don’t speak up for other minority groups, and because of this, we often bring down other minorities along the way. Although this isn’t how all people think, it brings up the important issue of supporting all people when it comes to fighting against societal hate and ignorance.
Aside from the heavy issues in this last episode, it ends with a cliffhanger in which Andrew’s parents make a comment about how they don’t agree with interracial dating and how he must now navigate through this familial culture. So please please please, give this short series a watch so more shows and episodes like this can be made.
Although this show may seem ridiculous to some Asian Americans because of its mocking and a bit of disdain for wanting a stable life, I think that it is important to watch the show in its entirety with an open mind. My take away from watching the show is that Asian Americans should not be forced to fit into the mold that was taught to them but rather be willing to pursue their own hopes and dreams. Furthermore, although this show focuses on Asian Americans, it is meant for all audiences. No matter what your race may be, Asian American or otherwise, perhaps you may find one part or another relatable.
Click here to watch the first episode on Youtube!