Well the latest one-night stand this last episode was a South Asian guy named Steve. Yes it’s a bit part, but hey, when do you see an Asian man getting it on in mainstream media? Especially in an interracial coupling? Not very often. I was cheering him on. Go Steve go! Yeah, an Asian American man! South Asian at that! In a non-Asian-specific role! Boinking the title character!
Unfortunately he shows up at the hospital the next day because he has a problem. You see, what went up hasn't come down yet. One of the doctors, the mean one, accuses him of taking Viagra. I winced. Just when an Asian man shows up on TV, not as a waiter or a laughable foreign exchange student, or an asexual nerd, but as a manly man bedding the main character, he gets accused of faking his manliness? Aahh!
Steve insists he and his performance are 100% natural and that he did not take any drugs. Thus poking and prodding (of the medical kind) ensues. He gets a little needy and starts to cling to Meredith a little. Understandable I think. I mean, he's got a problem down there and has to be in the hospital for it. How embarrassing. She, meanwhile, spends the entire episode being mortified that she "broke his penis." The whining goes on and on. Can she shut up already?
In the end, Steve is vindicated. He wasn't faking anything. He has a tumor that is putting pressure on some nerve, which is causing the Mr. to stand up. The episode ends with his manliness in tact. Yeah Steve! Steve asks Meredith if she would consider being more than a one-night stand. She declines as she is clearly not over ex-boyfriend-who-has-a-wife. Oh well, guess we won't see Steve anymore. Too bad. (By the way, does anyone know who the actor is?) At least we had a good episode with a positive portrayal of an Asian American man.
And for that I was really excited. It's kind of pathetic actually, that I'd get excited over such a little thing like a bit character on a guilty pleasure TV show. But we are so absent in the media that I can't help but take note when I see one of us on TV. For example, a couple years ago, I was really stoked to see a South Asian woman in a Ross commercial. Do I remember who else was in the Ross commercial? No. I remember the South Asian woman. She was bowling. I don't think I had ever seen a South Asian on TV before, with the exception of Parminder Nagra (Bend it Like Beckham) playing Neela on ER. And then there was a stylish Asian American couple in a Target ad (but hey, everyone in a Target ad is stylish). And recently, has anyone seen the Old Navy ad where Jeff (of East Asian descent) gives his white girlfriend a scarf for Christmas?
A friend of mine calls it Asian-spotting, this habit of taking note of the Asians in TV and movies. It's like an elusive sport since we're just not around all that much. I'm not the only one doing this of course. The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition just released a report on Asian Americans on TV.
They found that diversity on network TV over the past year has not only stalled, but is deteriorating in some cases. The number of regular roles in primetime television for APAs increased by 1 for a grand total of 17. But these weren't always quality roles. The number of recurring roles fell. I don't know if there will ever be a day when a Steve or Jeff or Ross Bowling Girl comes on TV and I won't even think about it because it would be such a normal everyday thing to see representation of the normal everyday world, a world that is diverse. Wouldn't that be nice?