As a Korean-American that grew up in Los Angeles most of my life, I have had the opportunity to have my foot in two worlds so to speak. One, is the world that all of you non-Koreans come into contact with every day. Whether it’s school, work, or play, it is the world that we see every day in the news. The other world is one that is pretty exclusive to Korean-Americans and Koreans that live in LA. It straddles the cultural and physical divide in efforts to bring the South Korean metropolitan lifestyle to America. Until now, this world has largely remained under the radar. Unfortunately, it’s now being introduced to the world through the lens of a new “reality show”, K-Town.
Now, I’ve heard people argue that this is an important step in terms of breaking down the “stereotype” of the model minority, the idea that Asians have always been considered to be the “perfect” minority class: hard working, subservient, good with numbers, etc. I’m sure our readers can fill in the many blanks that follow, but is this really serving our community? Is this the image we want out there of what K-Town (Koreatown, Los Angeles) is like? In this author’s humble opinion, this type of lowest common denominator entertainment only undermines any attempts to break those cultural stereotypes.
For me, personally, the show is really nothing but an embarrassment. Aside from the benefit of additional money being made by bars that receive patronage from people that have never been to Koreatown, it is, what I consider to be, perhaps the most embarrassing spectacle in the history of Korean-Americans and the reality show genre.
The show follows eight late-twenty/early-thirty-somethings around Koreatown chronicling their debauchery. Unfortunately, the individuals being memorialized are probably what I would consider to be, at the very best, crass and juvenile (and that’s being generous). We have a single mom who, as far as I can tell, is more worried about a car salesman who calls himself the “prince of KTown” than her own child, a stripper who would do anything to be the center of attention, a grown man that whines more than I did at age 5, and the list goes on.
This isn’t to say that the people that star in this show are all bad people. I’m sure they’ve all “paid their dues” so to speak, but I will say that what they’re doing to the image of our community is sad and tragic. Why? Because I grew up in LA, and I’ve been around Korean-Americans all my life. For the most part, this does not accurately represent my people. We are not a bunch of alcoholic-fornicating-party-promoters who sell out their community for a few thousand bucks an episode.
There are going to be a lot of people that disagree, they’ll say things like, “It’s just a TV (or YouTube) show, what do you expect?” Or something to the tune of, “Reality TV is like that.” Yeah, that’s definitely true. Reality TV IS like that and a lot of what we see on TV is trash, but is that any sort of justification? Since when did the bar on visual media drop to the point of putting a bunch of rejects I wouldn’t trust with a potato gun on TV and calling it “a step in the right direction?”
Want to shatter the stereotypes? What about a show about a Korean playboy billionaire that got rich by winning the lottery after dropping out of school because he couldn’t pass math and science. For an added shock factor, the character could fight crime when not wooing blonde-haired, white-skinned debutantes while jet setting around the world. That would shatter some stereotypes. Need your reality fix? What about a show about someone like Margaret Cho? To me, she is the embodiment of the anti-stereotypical Asian citizen of these United States. Oh no, wait, we want people that fit into the mold of what we think is attractive, fun, popular, and well, American. These guys aren’t out there breaking stereotypes. If anything, they’re doing the opposite, by fitting into the mold of all the reality shows that came before them.
Unfortunately, it isn’t them. The whole idea is that if people as a whole rejected this type of bottom-feeding media, we wouldn’t be scrolling through the guide seeing “reality” show after “reality” show. The problem is US. WE decided that this was how we wanted to spend our time. WE decided that quality programming should be replaced by trash TV. I guess what I’m trying to say is that as much as I hate K-Town, it is just a reflection of what popular culture views as “awesome”. So no, we won’t be able to stop this torrential wave of excrement that we will undoubtedly see showering down on us in the near future, but as a conscientious writer and academic, I won’t be partaking of this fruit ever again. Instead, I will shift my focus onto bigger and better things. Namely, a new reality show by the producers of K-Town called Roll Models [sic]. Because if I have to watch trash TV, it better have a cast full of hot girls instead of guys that pluck their eyebrows. That is all.