Typing Faster

August 4, 2010

Jersey Shore

Filed under: Future of TV — petertypingfaster @ 1:32 pm

What have thou wrought?

When Jersey Shore ended its winter run on an unexpected high note, making a fantastic turnaround from derogatory exploitation to stroke of entertainment genius, the imitations came fast and furious. There were rumors of a Brighton Beach ripoff and a Persian version; a geriatric version has already made it to air. Second-rate copies of what had originally seemed to many like a second-rate idea—could Jersey Shore, continuing its runaway success in its second season on MTV, have created an entirely new category of identity-based reality television?

Tentatively titled K-Town and set in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, the show has yet to be picked up by a network, and who knows whether it will be. Not since 1994 have television audiences been confronted with an all-Asian cast. Margaret Cho’s All American Girl aired for one short-lived, turbulent season. Plagued by low ratings, ABC wrangled with Cho about her weight, not being Asian enough, and then being too Asian. By the end of the season, the only Asians left were Cho and co-star Amy Hill.

“A lot of stereotypes about Asians are good,” said Mike Le, one of the show’s producers. “We’re smart, we play the violin or piano, we’re hard workers, great at math. Our cast is like that, too, except they’re also sexy, stylish, and have swagger. Those are things people don’t think of when they think of Asians in media. They think Asian guys are asexual, girls are docile, repressed.”

To wit, the cast features Peter “The Situasian” Le, a gay porn actor who runs his own erotic website (NSFW!), and ex-stripper Scarlet Chan, who responded to the Craigslist ad by promising to bring in viewers “through my many mischievous and slutty episodes.” Chan, 24 and originally from Hong Kong, acknowledges that her lifestyle “doesn’t fit the traditional norm of what a nice Chinese daughter is supposed to do,” but says the point of the show will be to break down old stereotypes and create new ones. Even on the cast’s conservative end, Violet Kim, who is already being billed as the show’s Snooki because of her petite stature, doesn’t fit the “model minority” mold. Kim, an aspiring actress, doesn’t have a college degree. College was “never something I thought about accomplishing until I got divorced,” she says. She’s now a single mother at 27. It goes without saying that the show is already causing anxiety among certain Asian groups, a culture that prizes achievement and honor and shudders at anything that would bring shame or disgrace.

If this is the future of TV someone shoot me in the face now. Please.

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