Something cringey I’ve noticed while re-watching my favorite sitcoms is the “other-ization” of minorities by simply using their ethnicity as a modifier. “It must’ve been that Indian food; oh it was the weird Korean place; oh it’s the weird Chinese brand.”
I think it can be totally cool to embrace and poke fun at relatable things about our myriad of cultures. But if the joke is just “say an ethnic name and that’s the joke,” that’s a cheap stab at the exotic and scary stereotype of “the other.”
I’ve seen this ethnic other-ized punchline in nearly every sitcom: Parks & Rec, Friends, Seinfeld, Brooklyn 99, The Office, Arrested Development. I love many of these sitcoms—but I cringe at the sudden exclusionary humor, especially about “weird Asian stuff.”
Asian punchline humor always has been low-hanging fruit and easy-mode for “comedy” writers because it will never see protest and seems harmless. Too many Asian-Americans follow along, just happy for the representation at all, and always in fear of looking like “we’re not team players.”
The next time you watch any sitcom, be on the look-out for random Asian/foreigner/exotic punchline. Sometimes it really is funny and I laugh too. But it’s also lazy writing, alienating, and reminds me as an Asian-American that I will always be seen as a second class invisible non-being.