When ABC announced the cancellation of Selfie after only 13 episodes, I was heartbroken.
Okay, maybe not heartbroken, but there was definite disappointment over the decision. As an avid television watcher, I’m constantly on the prowl for new shows. Although network comedies aren’t really my thing (I’m a sucker for pretty much any show on CW though), I was really excited when Selfie began airing. For the first time ever on prime time American television, John Cho, an Asian American male, was cast as the romantic lead.
It’s not exactly a secret that Hollywood loves dreamy, white males with rippling muscles; you just have to turn on a TV or go to a movie theater. With Selfie though, I loved tuning in to see John Cho’s character, Henry, banter with his romantic counterpart, Eliza, played by Karen Gillan. I just wished I could have seen this before 2014. Hollywood is slowly, if not reluctantly, changing the demographics of the actors to correspond with changes in the demographics of American viewers.
Why the reluctance though? Why not incorporate more Asians as leads, especially as romantic ones? More importantly though, why should we care about diversifying network television? Shouldn’t we all be trying to watch less TV?
While I can’t even begin to fully delve into addressing all of the above topics, I will say that media plays an important role in shaping people’s perception, and when that’s highly limited, it becomes problematic.* Networks are realizing though that viewers want a diverse cast. After all, aren’t we all more likely to watch something if we like the actors? Asians, Hispanics, and African American actors are slowly getting more starring roles and are breaking stereotypes. Asians are more than smart techies. They are more than fiercely competitive classmates who stop at nothing to get an A. They aren’t all martial arts masters. They fall in love. They break hearts. They do the same things that we see white actors doing on TV.
So why aren’t they leads? One simple reason: sex sells, and Asian males aren’t typically considered sexy. They don’t fit in with traditional, Western images of masculinity, so they’re often excluded from romantic storylines.
Although Selfie was eventually pulled off air, the show definitely indicated that Hollywood might be ready to dip their toes in new waters. With new leads like Vincent Rodriguez in The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Daniel Henney in CBS’s Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, TV is clearly undergoing some changes. Maybe they’re realizing what I’ve known all along. Asian men are hot. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.
*Here’s some articles that delve deeper into the issues mentioned above. https://www.slantnews.com/story/2015-08-22-its-2015-so-why-is-asian-representation-in-the-media-still-so-inadequate