Goodbye Glen: One Less Asian Guy on TV

Goodbye Glen: One Less Asian Guy on TV

[Spoiler Alert!]

Honestly, I’ve had better stuff to do and haven’t watched the Walking Dead since season 5(ish), but after just hearing the recent news about Glenn, I’m feeling a huge TWD binge coming on for old times’ sake.

Here’s the scene. It’s pretty damn horrible and intensely graphic – be warned:

Glenn Death Scene

So if you didn’t click on it, the gist of the scene is that Glenn gets his skull bashed in, and if you did happen to click on it, you’re probably trying to find a toilet to hurl into rn, understandably.

There’s a lot of sex, brutality, and death on TWD and on other TV programmes, (looking at you, Game of Thrones), so by now society is more or less used to it, but this is just wayyyyy too far. You know, I get that producer Greg Nicotero really wanted to hit you over the head with this one (ha), and the overly-explicit blood, gore is effective in doing so, but it’s just plain distasteful. Do we really need to see all that? Nobody had any better ideas in terms of how to portray it?

Anyways, thats not the point; the point is that with Glenn’s death, there is now one fewer portrayal of a strong Asian man on TV, of which there’s only a handful, and that’s kind of a problem.

As a little half-Chinese kid growing up in Pickering, On., (super-white suburbs just outside of Toronto), I didn’t really ever see an Asian man in a strong leading role in Western media and didn’t have any Asian role models outside of my father. Asian men and boys were only found as:

  • Kung Fu masters
  • Power Rangers
  • Socially awkward
  • Nerds
  • The punchline
  • Otherwise foreign and portrayed as the “other”

Never ever was the Asian guy the knight in shining armour, that all boys aspire to be to some extent. So how did this affect my behaviour and self-image? Well nobody can really know because there’s so many factors at play here, but I can tell you this much: I used to feel pressure to play the Asian stereotype to be funny and likeable. I’d put on the fake Chinese accent for cheap laughs, make fun of the culture, and so on and so forth. Eventually, this became a toxic part of my identity until I realized I didn’t have to latch on to the China-man role – I could just be myself.

I think all of this could have been avoided if I saw more Asian men like Glenn in strong leading roles on TV. Or is funny just funny? Are you ok with the presence of Asian males in TV? Comment below and let’s have a discussion!

 

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8 thoughts on “Goodbye Glen: One Less Asian Guy on TV

  1. I think the quantity of Asian roles is important – strength in numbers, but more Ken Jeongs isnt gonna help, so its also abt the the quality! Glenn was a great character for the Asian community bc he’s normal and accessible, but also played the main romantic interest on the show.

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  2. I don’t think he needs to be a big buff guy to be a strong role. His character is often brave in tough situations and sometimes acts as a moral compass. Glenn was a giant breakthru in the Asian Community

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    1. And the classic macho lead role is starting to be played by Asians now – actors like John Cho, Jake Choi. I don’t think that the desexualization of Asians in TV is as big of a problem as the fact that they’ve always been played as the “other.” Like even Daniel Dae-Kim in Lost. The character was always portrayed in contrast to the Americans and had trouble communicating with the rest of the survivors, regardless of the fact that he and whatsherface made out a lot. This could be a celebration of culture, yes, but it also alienates Asians from Western culture and is racist. I think Aziz Ansari’s role in Community as Tom is a better example of the breakthrus that are starting to be made. Aziz’s ethnicity doesn’t matter for the portrayal of his character – the casting was “colourblind.” His character is comedic without stooping low and making fun of the fact he’s brown. Tom is like the rest of us, skin colour doesn’t matter.

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  3. I think there’s also an argument that there’s still a place for Ken Jeong. His comedic caricatures of Asian men are done with the idea in mind that it’s unrealistic and absurd. It’s him making a satirical comment about the portrayal of Asians on TV and film. We are not laughing at him, but with him

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    Like

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