Mid! The Walking Dead!
So I began watching this insanely popular Mid on TV last night. It’s so awesome! I can’t stop thinking about it!
What’s a Mid?
Ah, haha, sorry. I guess I use Mid even in English because there’s no exact word for it in English that makes sense in English conversation. Mid (미드) is actually an abbreviation of “American Drama” (MIguk DEUrama 미국 드라마 in Korean). Drama is actually Konglish. It means popular evening TV show that tells a story, made in the United States.
If we were to use the word “drama” to talk about a TV show in English, we’d think of “Days of our Lives,” “General Hospital” or perhaps even “Dos Mujeres” if when you were a kid Univision was the only cable channel that didn’t accidentally get scrambled by the Cable company one summer. Basically soap operas, with such dramatic storylines such as Billy and Jane are thrown for a loop when it is revealed that their son Tom is actually the son of Jane’s former lover, who is actually Billy’s twin brother who was separated at birth and had his appearance altered after suffering a car accident with Lisa, who was Jane’s younger sister who ran away at the age of 12 and trained as a secret agent by the KGB in order to infiltrate the U.S. and kill the president of the United States, who is Billy’s actual father! Cue dramatic music!
The word we use for 미드 in English is TV shows. Any TV show with actors making a story made in the U.S. falls into the 미드 category. This includes quite a range of shows like “Friends”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Family Matters” I bet you didn’t know they were all the same category did you? Well, only in Korea, they are!
Why don’t you just say “TV show” instead of Mid?
Because, I’m in Korea. “TV show” would refer to a Korean TV show. I’m talking about an American one, therefore, I used the word Mid. That’s the thing when you learn another language, sometimes you find that it is more capable of expressing your thoughts than your native one… even if it is only one word.
Anyway, let me tell you about this Mid. It’s called “The Walking Dead.”
The Walking Dead is a new series about a zombie apocalypse. The first episode starts out before the apocalypse. Rick the policeman is the main character. He and his partner are involved in a shootout with some criminals and Rick is shot. We next find Rick heavily drugged and in the hospital, when his partner comes by and gives him some flowers. Rick looks away, then turns back to say something to his friend only to find himself alone in the hospital room. He examines the flowers which are now dead. This is strange because in his mind he received only a few seconds ago. Finally he realizes that he’s been there for quite a while, perhaps several weeks. This is also strange because the nurse would have thrown the dead flowers away at least. After getting up and finding the whole hospital empty, he realizes that something happened to the world when he was unconscious in the hospital. That something was zombies.
I won’t go into the plot in detail, but basically let’s just say that Rick is having trouble getting acclimated to this world, as it appears that he’s the last one to know what’s happened. Other survivors that he meets are already much more adept at dealing with zombies. Rick meets up with a group of survivors later in the 2nd episode. Among these survivors is the character “Glenn”.
Glenn seems to be very good at getting supplies for his group of survivors and he saves Rick’s life from a huge zombie horde. He’s in the range of 20-25 years old and you can tell that before the zombie outbreak, he was a pretty smart guy. He’s also very nice and loyal.
Why are you telling us about Glenn?
Well, Glenn is played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun.
So? Is that all?
No, that’s not all. I think this is probably the first major role on a major TV series that has an Asian-American male playing an Asian-American male, and avoids stereotyping him as the martial arts guy or the overly nerdy guy. He’s not socially inept, he’s not obviously foreign, he doesn’t do Asian-esque mystical lotus flower rituals to get out of sticky situations. He’s just a normal guy in this role, and it’s a first. If it’s not a first, then it’s certainly the one that stands out the most in my mind!
Well what about Daniel Dae Kim and Masi Oka? They are both Asian-American men! They had huge roles in LOST and Heroes!
Yes, they did, but they weren’t playing Asian-American men. Daniel Dae Kim was playing a Korean character in LOST. Masi Oka was playing a Japanese character in Heroes.
First of all, there is a difference between Asian and Asian-American. Next, I’d argue that Daniel Dae Kim and Masi Oka are probably the two most visible Asian-American male actors there are on TV. They take part in series that (perhaps unintentionally) have few or no Asian-American characters. It perpetuates the idea that Asians are foreign when the most prominent Asian characters on TV aren’t Asian-American, but Asian (or even worse, the author’s warped idea of what Asians are).
This isn’t to say that I am opposed to there being Asian characters in American TV shows. Actually I really like Masi Oka’s character in Heroes. What I’m saying is that it’s really refreshing to see an Asian-American playing an Asian-American… especially in a major role on a popular TV series. It will hopefully go a long way in perhaps creating more roles for Asian-American men in the U.S. media.
What? There are plenty of roles for Asian men in U.S. movies and TV shows!
I don’t think you’re really hearing me. I am talking about major roles that aren’t stereotypical. Asian male representation in the U.S. media is sorely lacking. Don’t believe me? Name 5 Asian-American male actors not including the three that I talked about so far.
Jackie Chan… Jet Li…
No, no.. I said Asian-Americans!!!!!
Um, George Takei, John Cho, er.. Rob Schneider..um… Keanu Reeves… uh… Rick Yune?
Okay, those may not be the ones that you the reader thought of, but these are the ones that I could think of off the top of my head.
Anyway I as a 1/2 Korean person who is always talking about personal identity crises and how it is my belief that 1/2 Asians should be seen as Asian if that’s how they want to be seen actually can’t accept Rob Schneider and Keanu Reeves as Asian-American actors in this case, mainly because it doesn’t register with the audience that they are Asian in any way. I think this is the one area where this looks rule applies. So if I ever went into acting, I don’t think I myself would qualify as a Korean-American actor, even if that’s how I myself would identify. Anyway, I digress.
Enough of this tangent. The point is, this is probably the second major Asian-American character in a non-stereotypical role in the last decade. The other is John Cho as Harold from the “Harold and Kumar” movies.
I’ll be watching The Walking Dead because it’s got an awesome story, not because Glenn is played by a Korean-American though. You should all check it out!