Since Crazy Rich Asians has already been written to death, let me direct your attention this week to a show that is showcasing and representing Asians on a more inclusive scale. Kim’s Convenience started out as a play written by Korean-Canadian actor/director/playwright Ins Choi. It centers around the Kim family and a convenience store they own in Toronto. It has since been adapted for TV by Ins Choi & Kevin White. It airs on CBC Television and is now available on Netflix.
Kim’s Convenience is the kind of family sitcom that is universally familiar. The characters of Mr & Mrs Kim (played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon), and their children Janet (played by Andrea Bang) and Jung (played by Simu Liu) all have characteristics that are relatable to audiences regardless of nationality. From Mr Kim’s pride for his native country Korea, Mrs Kim’s earnest way to keep the peace between her family members, Janet’s need for some young adult independence to Jung’s ego towards his estranged relationship with his father, it is not hard to be instantly captivated and drawn into the narrative of the series.
Accompanying its simple narrative is the representation of not just Korean-Canadians as a migrant group, but also other Asian immigrants, such as Mr Kim’s friends, Mr Chin from China and Mr Mehta from India. The customers that waltz in and out of the convenience store are also made up of a diverse demographic of nationalities, and are not dumbed down to be fitted into a fetishized stereotype, but in their own small and subtle way represent their own culture. It is a refreshing take on Asians in television, breaking out from the tired tradition of the token Asian sidekick that compliments a white lead.
While Kim’s Convenience and its representation of Asians isn’t the first of its kind on television (see Fresh Off The Boat and The Kumars at No. 42), what sets it apart is its focus on the human and family values as opposed to being a heavy display of ethnic characteristics and issues. While there are hints of Korean culture and slang throughout the two seasons, the dynamics of the show prioritises development of the relationships between the characters rather than heavily focusing on their nationality or ethnicity. This makes the characters more realistically human, causing the audience to invest emotionally in the relationships, especially when the instances displayed hit a little too close to home.
True, the narratives within Kim’s Convenience are recycled and are typical of a family sitcom – gender power struggles between the husband and wife, the generational gap between parent and child, and the large looming sub-plot of the estranged father-son relationship. However, with so many TV shows of today constantly pushing an agenda or tackling heavy social issues, Kim’s Convenience brings it back to basics and provides heart-warming entertainment whilst at the same time being subtly progressive through its multicultural representation.
Perhaps with so many powerful narratives already out there tackling different issues, a show like Kim’s Convenience is just what the doctor ordered. For the jaded individual, an episode of Kim’s Convenience can feel like warm soup on a sick day. It is comfortable, familiar, light-hearted (for the most part) yet progressive enough to be relevant in 2018. For a late-night watch after a bad day, I could not recommend anything more entertaining yet comforting.
The first 2 seasons of Kim’s Convenience is available on Netflix. Season 3 is slated for a release in early 2019.
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