Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Asian Americans on Heroes

During our weekly Heroes-watching, we usually feel a mix of emotions -- excitement to see Masi Oka and James Kyson Lee in such complex and hilarious starring roles, confusion as to why they are always bumbling fools with high-pitched voices -- and these last two weeks have been no exception.

We were excited to see Hiro and Ando get picked up by this trucker, who they first assume is Japanese, but who turns out to be a good old Southern boy with a strong twang. It's a bit awkward that he says "don't go all foreign on me," but we're just happy that the writers seem to be toying with their own predilection for having all non-white people be foreigners. He's likable, and the scene is funny.

The next week, however, Angela takes the whole Petrelli family to a deserted camp in the desert to dig up old memories of when people with powers were being taken away and killed (by no less than another accented Asian, the now-villainous Chandra Suresh from the 1960s). It was nice, I suppose, to see the internment being condemned in a sort of half-hearted way (since internment was wrong, this whole imprisoning people with powers thing must be wrong too!) but at the same time, the visual comparisons were strong and the storyline was not. The whole episode was weak in terms of racial politics (would an Indian have immigrated in 1961 to start his own facility, would a black man even be allowed into that diner?) and in general the history of internment was ignored in favor of Angela's need to dig up the family bones (creepy!). Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but to show people being carted into a "relocation center" and made to live in barracks in the desert demands more than one line about how this was somewhat related to internment. It was a missed opportunity to actually discuss the internment, and to explicitly connect the visual landscape that had been recreated here to the experiences of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

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