HomeTV‘American Born Chinese’ Overview: We’re All Walt’s Kids

‘American Born Chinese’ Overview: We’re All Walt’s Kids


When it got here out 17 years in the past, Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel “American Born Chinese” was singular in a number of methods: for its deal with on a regular basis Asian American characters; for the best way it used Chinese mythology to amplify and deepen its story of immigrant anomie and identification; and for the collagelike, stop-and-start method wherein it informed the story. It was, maybe, extra worthy than thrilling, however each its novelty and its seriousness made it stand out.

The eight-episode Disney+ series “American Born Chinese,” very loosely based mostly on Yang’s guide, premieres on Wednesday in, if not a distinct world, then in a really totally different pop-culture atmosphere. Its Asianness is notable however not novel; two members of its forged, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, won Oscars in March (and a 3rd, Stephanie Hsu, was nominated) for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the newest landmark within the Asian or Asian-themed film-music-television wave. That the checklist of writers and administrators for “American Born Chinese” is sort of fully Asian is, in 2023, an expectation relatively than a shock.

All of which is a good distance of attending to the purpose that whereas “American Born Chinese” presents plenty of issues you might count on — a textured depiction of first- and second-generation immigrant suburban life, a flashy incorporation of characters from the traditional Chinese novel “Journey to the West,” a critique of Hollywood’s historical past of racist depictions of Asians — these issues now not outline, or delimit, the expertise of watching it or excited about it. The operative phrase right here isn’t American or Chinese however Disney. And the fusion that issues probably the most isn’t the one between East and West however the fully business one between highschool dramedy and martial-arts-inflected superhero motion.

So the considerably disappointing report is that after 17 years, “American Born Chinese” is a completely typical half-hour teenage comic-drama-supernatural journey collection. On the great aspect, the household at its core — {the teenager} Jin Wang (Ben Wang) and his mother and father, Christine and Simon (Yeo Yann Yann and Chin Han) — are sensitively drawn and given glorious performances, and the naturalistic components of the story that target their residence life and Jin’s struggles at college typically have humor and a quiet however positive emotional pull.

That the normal household story is the present’s strongest function is sensible on condition that Kelvin Yu, who created “American Born Chinese,” is a longtime producer and author for “Bob’s Burgers,” the Fox animated comedy that for greater than a decade has been the funniest, sharpest, sweetest present on TV in regards to the American household.

On the down aspect are the weather of the present that replicate the tripartite construction of the graphic novel. They’re assembled with polish and cleverness, however they’re not as imaginative or compelling as they’d should be to kick the collection out of its better-than-average groove.

The mythological plot, a contemporary sequel to the Monkey King’s story in “Journey to the West,” has been included absolutely into the present-day story and normalized, in Disney-Marvel vogue, as an alternately jokey and violent best-friends journey with loads of particular results, martial-arts wire work and creature make-up. The Monkey King’s son, Wei-chen (Jim Liu), involves earth on a quest that entails Jin; the supernatural story factors are skillfully however not very inventively tied into the same old teen-drama guidelines — pep rally, pool occasion, large recreation — resulting in a loud “save the highschool” finale.

Well-known performers like Ronny Chieng, James Hong, Hsu and Jimmy O. Yang play gods and demons, however the characters are broadly drawn and exhausting to enliven, even in a virtually episode-long sequence set in heaven and styled as a Shaw Brothers Hong Kong epic. Only Yeoh, wielding her preternatural attraction and agile humor because the goddess Guanyin, makes a lot of an impression.

Also wedged into the collection — presumably standing in for the conceptualized part of the graphic novel that featured a shape-shifting character provocatively named Chin-Kee — are scenes from an invented, decades-old sitcom starring a closely stereotyped, Long Duk Dong-like Asian nerd (performed by Quan). This ingredient finally breaks out of its show-within-the-show confines and emerges into the story correct, making specific the collection’s in any other case extra delicate factors about racism and stereotyping. But it does so in a mannered and self-conscious manner. (The collection as an entire feels as if it had been finishing up a Disneyesque balancing act in relation to racism; in Jin’s highschool expertise, aggressions are frequently portrayed because of cluelessness relatively than bigotry or anger.)

Easy to look at however simply as straightforward to not watch, “American Born Chinese” strives to attraction you in ways in which may fit or might make you wince from their familiarity. Asianness is indicated by gags — deftly delivered — about saving soy sauce packets and never loading up on rice; Teresa Teng pops up on the soundtrack when sentiment known as for. What it demonstrates most clearly is that within the modern market, coming-of-age clichés transfer simply throughout cultural boundaries.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com


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