Asian male as Pathetic Caricature
Kevin From Work is a romantic comedy on ABC Family. It follows the misadventures of Kevin (Noah Reid) as he confesses his love to his “former” coworker Audrey (Paige Spara)… right before he finds out that he didn’t get the new job and will still have to work with her. I would’ve thought this was a sweet story if all the racist shit didn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
First let’s meet Ricky (Jason Rogel), the only main Asian male character in the show. He continues Hollywood’s tradition of making the most visible Asian male a caricature to be laughed at and mocked; something without any real substance or redeeming qualities. Ricky is effeminate, nosy, cheap, annoying, and weird. At first I thought he was fat as well but after watching all of the currently available episodes (six at the time of this writing) I can see that he’s just extremely bloated from all the stereotypes they tried to cram into this one character.
White people can’t tell minorities apart so his boss Julia (Amy Sedaris) describes him as “one weird Mexican sumo”. It’s interesting that he looks like a big man-child because whenever his boss addresses him she shouts his name as if he was going to get scolded. She doesn’t regularly do that to anyone else. By episode 5 he offers the fact that he’s “borderline asexual” in case there’s any doubt to this stereotype’s bizarre character.
Within the first few minutes of the first episode they already have him dancing in front of an air conditioner like a fucking weirdo while all the normal (Black and White) people just chill and dance normally.
Ricky, the “cheap Asian guy”, asks Kevin to pay the tab for his own going away party and steals coworkers’ food from the fridge.
As if this guy doesn’t have enough issues, after he moves to Kevin’s old desk across from Audrey we find out he’s got “restless feet syndrome” and has to constantly kick her desk.
Time for some of that Asian male social awkwardness. Ricky overreacts when Audrey leaves a smiley face on his cubicle wall. She does it as a friendly gesture but because he has to have incredibly dull social skills he takes it as an insult to his “round face”. With a proud “gotcha” smile on that stereotype-of-a-face he reports her for being too aggressive and calls her a bitch.
Security footage captures one of Ricky’s many, many weird habits. He stands near the stairs in their office for extended periods of time. It’s soon revealed that he does this to eavesdrop on his coworker’s conversations. This is how he finds out about the love letter Kevin sent to Audrey. He then posts this in the office’s gossip newsletter. So it’s not another weird habit. They just wanted to show you that the most prominent Asian male character is a nosy douche bag. “Even after all the nice things we did for him” as Audrey exclaims after finding out. So after the two beautiful White characters help the weird, disgusting Asian guy out he still has the audacity to backstab them.
During a montage for Kevin and Audrey’s plan to get even with Ricky that involved spreading a rumor that their boss wanted to have sex with him they play the song most responsible for stereotyping Asian females as sexual objects: 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny”. The title and the lyrics of this song are sampled from the scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket where the American soldiers negotiate sex with the Asian prostitute, who speaks in broken English. The song’s racial overtones make it clear that it wasn’t an accident or a random choice that it was chosen for the Asian character’s supposed sexual encounter.
In one scene the boss Julia is handing out performance evaluations. But it plays out more like a contest to see how many Asian stereotypes we can throw out. In this 25 second interaction we have the ambiguous Asian race, effeminate, dry cleaning, nerdy and unkempt, and even playing the race card stereotypes all rolled up into one racist package. He fears that due to his poor job performance he’ll get fired. Julia gives him the ultimatum of simply signing one client, afterwards she can “play whatever race card he is” (that’s the actual line in the show) to keep his job. This makes one wonder how often the writers think Asians use their race to get or hold a job, or if they view this as an unfair privilege that we have.
Kevin gets a perfect evaluation (of course) and plays the role of the White savior by helping him get that client. They manage to throw a small dick stereotype in when Ricky describes how his latest ex left him for a ‘larger’ guy. When they’re supposed to be talking about ‘problems with the ladies’ he ends up talking about an issue with his sister.
To further push the stereotype of the effeminate Asian guy we’re introduced to Ricky’s twin sister Liz (Ellen D. Williams). As soon as we meet her she scolds Ricky for failing to do some chores. Ricky attempts to stand up to her but just gets the door slammed in his face and gets kicked out. Later he exclaims how proud he is that he hasn’t asked his sister to ‘take him back’. More of that social awkwardness.
Time to drive home the effeminate Asian male stereotype. In episode 5 he seeks the help of Kevin’s friend Brian (Matt Murray), a personal trainer. But when Brian attempts to motivate him he shows how sensitive he is to even the slightest form of aggression. At one point Ricky can’t take the (barely aggressive) motivation so he runs away (effeminately with limp wrists of course) about to cry. Ricky almost fires him but Brian saves his job by playing on Ricky’s ridiculously intense desire for gossip. Was that another stereotype? There’s been so many crammed into this one character that I’m losing track.
In fact, all the Asian characters in this show are reduced to nothing more than extravagant caricatures. Patti (Punam Patel), the only Asian female character in the show, is loud and in-your-face. She forces herself on Kevin sexually seconds after they meet, even after stating that her initial impression of him was that he’s a sexual predator. He gives in to her extremely aggressive advances just to try to get a letter from her. After they have sex she’s so enamored by him that she hopes she gets pregnant. Even after she finds out that he used her to try and get that letter back AND that the letter was to confess his feelings for Audrey she still forces herself sexually on Kevin a second time at the end of the second episode.
By the beginning of Episode 2 she’s so distraught that he doesn’t call back that she starts stalking him and breaking into his apartment.
She also ends up stalking Kevin’s sister Roxie (Jordan Hinson). Patti tracks Roxie through texts she posted on social media then hangs out with Roxie against her will throughout the day. At the very least, they end up becoming actual friends later.
At some point we’re introduced to Dr. Dev (Neal Dandade). Patti doesn’t want to be forced into a relationship with him so Kevin goes to a cousin’s funeral with her to pretend to be her date. Patti changes her mind though after she finds out that Dev is not only a doctor but a DJ at a club. So to recap, the Asian woman throws herself at the White guy seconds after they meet, without knowing anything about him. But the Asian guy has to be a doctor AND an extremely cool DJ before she allows him to be with her.
Maybe her lawyer dad Samir (Brian George) who gets about 5 seconds of screen time can be the normal Asian guy?
Nah, he ends up having kinky sex with Julia. Of course he’s the one being dominated though.
Nik Dodani plays Paul Garfunkle, an Indian coworker and yet another awkward Asian male.
He asks Kevin if he “wants him to put his balls on his neck” when referring to his massage beads.
Kevin asks Paul if he wants to share candy. As an example of his social awkwardness Paul takes all of the candy Kevin hands him, gives half to his partner Simon, and leaves Kevin with nothing. Them socially awkward Asians?
Paul is seen throughout episode 6 hugging this pillow. Another socially awkward quirk for one of the few Asian male characters.
When the few Asian characters you have in your show are reduced to over-the-top caricatures, we have a problem. Kevin From Work’s Asian characters are only memorable because of some dysfunction or overly-exaggerated personality trait they have. Furthermore, many of them reinforce negative stereotypes.
And where do we even start with Ricky. This character takes me back to the days of Mr. Yunioshi (Breakfast At Tiffany’s) and Fu Manchu (The Face of Fu Manchu) when the only Asian men you’d see on screen were evil, perverted, and conniving, yet ultimately ineffective, sexless, and weak. Unfortunately now Hollywood seems to be able to select the worst specimens of Asian men they can find to represent us in their shows. We’ve seen the studies that show how characters like these affect perception and our lives. Let us collectively say NO to characters like Ricky and Han from 2 Broke Girls!
Take Action!! Drop a note on their social media:
ABC Family feedback via website: http://abc.go.com/feedback
ABC Family Twitter: https://twitter.com/ABCFamily
ABC Family Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abcfamily
Jason Rogel (Ricky) Twitter: https://twitter.com/jasonrogel
CATEGORY OF OFFENSE: Denigration ( Reinforces Stereotypes)
MEDIA TYPE: TV Show
OFFENSE DATE: August 26, 2015