INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Predictable Asian Female/White Male Romance on ‘Last Resort’

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By GUY AOKI

One of the most intriguing series of the new season is ABC’s “Last Resort.” A U.S. nuclear sub is asked to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan. When the captain (Andre Braugher) refuses to because the way he receives the orders seems suspicious, his sub is attacked by other U.S. ships. The crew are branded traitors back home and have to fend for themselves against both the government and, on land, a thug who thinks he owns that region of Pakistan.

One of the Navy SEALS on the sub, James King (Daniel Lissing), seemed to only spend time at the bar owned by Tani Tumrenjack, played by Nichen Lachman, who’s half Australian/half Tibetan. She never said anything but always seemed to be around him in a slinky kinda way. “Hmm,” I thought, “I can already see where this is going.  She has absolutely no personality and looks exotic, so all she’s good for is to serve as his love interest.”

I could spot it a mile away. Next thing we know, they’re hiking, flirting near waterfalls, blah blah blah. They almost kiss but don’t. In a later episode when King barely comes back alive from a mission helping the sub, he returns to her bar, and without saying anything, just grabs Tani and kisses her. The next episode, we see them in bed together. Yaay. Another unmotivated white male/Asian female pairing. How original. And Tani is such a strong, independent person too. What a role model! Har har.

Another problem I have with the series is that we never see any other Asians in Pakistan. Michael Ng plays the sonar guy in the submarine, but he doesn’t have much to do. The self-made overlord Julian Serrat is played by a black man (Sahr Ngaujah) and all of his henchmen are also black. There’s a role for a French NATO officer who seems attracted to the sub’s second-in-command (Scott Speedman), so I don’t know where else Asian Americans would’ve fit in into this scenario without playing equally negative or clichéd roles.

“Last Resort” airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m.

Daniel Lissing and Nichen Lachman of “Last Resort.”

Speaking of Which Department: I’m always appalled at the number of white husbands who kill their Asian ex-wives or ex-girlfriends. Over the years, I’ve read of so many such accounts in The Rafu that I’ve lost count. The latest was a guy from Stockton — a marriage counselor yet! — who killed his ex-wife, her sister, and her aunt before committing suicide. I only remember one instance where the reverse happened: An Asian wife killing her white husband.

What is it, do many of these guys think they own their wives because they’re Asian and are supposed to be subservient to them, and they freak out when they’re not? And/or are many of these women really bad judges of character? Makes you wonder…

On the Other Hand Department: The flip side of the coin is the budding romance between Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) and the teenage daughter of the only non-alien famiIy in the neighborhood, Amber Weaver (Clara Mamet), on ABC’s “The Neighbors.” She’s not exactly pretty (too heavy eyebrows), but any Asian male/white female coupling breaks stereotypes because in the media, Asian men have not been depicted as being attractive to women of any race.

Early on, Reggie gets on her good side when he tries to get one of the most popular guys in the school to notice her. From studying the media, Reggie learned that women who have affairs with famous men become popular. So in the school hallways one day, he announces that Amber is getting it on with… Alan Alda! (Eh, he probably watched too many “M*A*S*H” reruns.) At first, Amber thinks Reggie’s out of his mind, but then, the object of her desire starts talking to her, so she turns around and smiles at Reggie.

Learning about birthdays, Reggie tried to create a present for Amber. On a disc, he put her entire life story, including answers to mysteries like “Who Killed Kennedy?” but she wasn’t interested. Later on, sensing Amber was missing her old neighborhood, Reggie re-created it in her bedroom. This warmed her heart, and we could see them getting closer. This one is not a clichéd Asian romance, and I look forward to seeing what develops.

Tim Jo and Clara Mamet of “The Neighbors.”

Despite some unbelievably harsh reviews, I enjoy this light-hearted, innocent show. The innocence comes mostly from the husband/wife aliens who are naïve to American customs and good-naturedly stumble their way through them with the help of the human husband/wife. What’s strange is that none of the humans have ever asked the aliens why they landed on Earth (uh, don’t aliens usually plot to conquer us?) and why they can’t return home or if they want to.

“The Neighbors” airs at 8:30 on Wednesday.

Gleeful Return Department: The fourth season of “Glee” has sported a different format. Because so many of the cast members graduated from high school, we follow some of them who went to New York to chase their dreams as well as those who’re still in the Glee Club and new members. Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) is still in high school, but she broke up with Mike Chang (Harry Shum, Jr.), who graduated, over the summer. Mike didn’t show up until last week, the fifth episode. He was asked to return to help with the school production of “Grease.” Tina’s so bitter over the break-up that she won’t even audition for any part, so Mike has to talk her into it.

As always, Shum is a dynamic and fun dancer to watch. Despite having a great singing voice (better than that of Cory Monteith, who plays Finn), he wasn’t used enough in previous seasons (compared to the main — what else? — white actors on the show), and with this new format, he’ll probably be seen even less as the focus on the graduates (and new cast members) continues to be — what else? — white kids like the Barbra Streisand wanna-be (Rachel), her boyfriend (Finn), the gay guy (Kurt) and his now estranged boyfriend (Blaine, played by Darren Criss, whose mom is Filipino/Chinese/Spanish, though he doesn’t look it at all).

What the alien family on “The Neighbors” really looks like.

“Glee” airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m.

Low Threshold Department: What do you do if your TV series averages only 2.4 million viewers a week? If it’s on the CW, you give it a full season. That’s what “Beauty and the Beast” starring Kristin Kreuk got last week. The other series to star a hapa Asian, “Nikita” with Maggie Q, has fallen on hard times. Its first season aired on Thursdays and averaged 2.3 million (including those who taped it and watched it later), then it moved to Fridays, where it fell to 1.8 million. This season, less than a million people are watching it live (we don’t yet know the total with those who watch it later).

Cloudy Forecast Department: “Cloud Atlas,” the Warner Brothers film that featured offensively bad yellowface, not enough prominent “real” Asian actors, and blacks playing Maori slaves, has, as of last weekend, only made $22.8 million. At this rate, I predict a total gross of $27 million. It just opened overseas last week, but it’s going to be a long time before it has the chance to break even, let alone make a profit (it cost $102 million to make).

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

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Guy Aoki, co-founder of Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), writes from Glendale. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. “Yaay. Another unmotivated white male/Asian female pairing. How original. And Tani is such a strong, independent person too. What a role model! Har har.”

    Mr. Aoki seems to be practicing the very thing you would think he is criticizing – namely judging individuals not by their character (or in this case acting ability), but by skin color, ethnic background — RACE.

    Pearl S. Buck must be turning over in her grave…after all…she was a woman who was BORN in Asia, spoke Chinese as a first language and yet…had a WHITE face!

    Where I come from, you don’t fight an evil by adopting and practicing it.

    Furthermore, “white males” (whatever that means) seem to like Asian women for a reason and it goes well beyond the shape of their faces and bodies. In fact, Asian women often represent many of the top values that ANY man would want in a woman, never mind a “white” one.

    Putting people into silly little boxes based on eye shape, and past ethnicity needs to come to an end one day. America has become a culture of demographic interest-group warfare. And advocates like Mr. Aoki are sadly part of the problem, not the solution. Don’t let’s pretend that this Political Correctness is anything other than a form of the very same evil that supposed anti-racist proponents seek to wipe out.

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