SFChronicle ran a below-the-fold, page-one story on Yul Kwon who won the latest installment of Survivor, the original reality show in its 13 season. The article focused in on the fact that the San Mateo native defeated “Asian stereotypes to win.”
I didn’t follow most of the season but I managed to catch the first and last episodes of this season on the Cook Islands. Somehow, for all the talk on the show of “representin'” your race, I didn’t quite fall for the whole gimmick. Really how much breaking down of stereotypes did Yul do? The human-Asian-encyclopedia Jeff Yang says Yul was, “tall, athletic, staggeringly handsome.” But really, everyone on survivor under the age of 25 is good-looking, regardless of race.
“I wanted America to see Asian Americans as they truly are,” says Kwon. Well, what are we? Are we all beautiful, eloquent, “god-father” figures looking the change our image on TV? Um, no. Clearly I would say a majority of Asians are not tall like Yao Ming, athletic like Tiger Woods (okay, he’s part Asian), and beautiful like Sandra Oh. Asian Americans are a diverse population of different backgrounds, upbringings, and social classes. You want to break down stereotypes? You must portray the immigrants in Chinatown, the affluent in Palo Alto, the struggling middle-class in Los Angeles. Portray not only a Korean but a Chinese, a Thai, a Japanese, a Filipino, etc. — and distinguish between them.
I don’t know too many Asian Americans like Yul Kwon. But Maybe I should be thankful for some representin’ on TV. Maybe he’ll become a idol for Asians everywhere or at least he’ll become as famous as an Amy Tan, if not recognizable by name, at least by face. I just hope he takes his short-lived fame and really runs with it, helping us Asian Americans figure out who we really are.