In season 8, episode 2 of House M. D., a new character, Dr. Chi Park (played by Charlyne Yi) was introduced and the only recurring Asian American character, along with Kal Penn in the entire 8 seasons.
You can start watching from 0:44 to 1:00, since it is in an interview and has a short clip from the show. Chi Park is not a very popular character, so much couldn’t be found on her, which indicates that Asian American characters quiet often play the supporting roles and are usually irrelevant.
Dr. Chi Park is the newest addition to Dr. House’s team. Throughout the season, she is shown having anger issues, no social skills, and afraid of disgracing her parents. In an episode, it was implied that she lost her temper and punched her former boss for groping her. With her poor lack of social skills in explaining the event at her hearing with the board, she ended up getting fired from the neurology residence program and wound up working for House after he got out of prison.
House M. D. constructs Dr. Chi Park in a stereotypical sense as the Asian American “model minority” who was the top 2% in her class in medical school and works in an esteemed hospital with a well known doctor. As Ono and Pham would put it, she is also shown as “robotic,” obeying everything House says while the other doctors disagree with him and don’t follow House’s irrational decisions. This shows how the “robotic” “model minority” always repeats and obeys the authority, even if disagreeing with them.
As Ono and Pham discuss in their paper regarding Horatio Alger’s story, the show also presents Dr. Chi Park in a similar light. Dr. Chi Park’s parent arrived from Korea and Philippines, working their best to send their daughter to the best schools making sure she got the proper education. This shows how the “model minority” discourse of Horatio Alger myth is applied to this character. She is shown as a first generation Asian American who worked hard to get to where she is, who went from rags to riches, and now has a reputable occupation.
Additionally, Park is also considered to be a part of the “model minority variant,” as “yellow peril.” She is a successful doctor, working under the best diagnostician in the country. Her being successful in the medical profession, reinforces the idea that Asian Americans ultimately pose a threat to the U.S. taking the jobs of other Americans who could’ve had the potential to succeed in medicine; if not for the mass amount of Asians/Asian Americans taking all the notable jobs.
Another stereotype the show tackles, is how Dr. Chi Park’s romantic interests are not in other Asian Americans. She falls for Dr. Chase and Dr. House, who are both white, reinforcing the stereotype that “Asian and Asian American women as romantic objects for white men.”
Dr. Park’s anger issues, which is always highlighted throughout the show, implies that she can’t be the rational and calm doctor like the others. Again, as Ono and Pham discuss, this shows how Asian Americans are “incapable of being the kind of doctor who cares about patients,” caring more about their selves and their problems. In turn, Park’s anger issues allows the other white doctors to become the “ideal doctor.”
With these stereotypes highlighted in the show, they reflect the codes and conventions discussed in Ono and Pham’s reading. Not only are these stereotypes magnified in this show, but in other popular shows as well, like Vince Masuka in Dexter and Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project. With continuously allowing Asian and Asian American characters to play stereotypical roles, there will be less diversity of roles they can play in the television. This will not only reinforce the never-ending cycle of stereotypical-ness among Asian and Asian American roles, but restrict actors from being able to branch out from being a doctor and they will continue to be typecast.
- With more frequent Asian/Asian American actors in television such as Priyanka Chopra in Quantico, Ken Jeong in Dr. Ken, and Aziz Ansari in Master of None, do you think there should be a continuous proper representation of the Asian minority or now there is too much? Do you think these actors are breaking stereotypes and allowing more Asian/Asian Americans to branch out or work still needs to be done?
- Do you still see these stereotypical roles still present in television today? If so, which shows and how?
- Is the “model minority,” a term coined in the 1960s, still a threat to the U.S. workforce today?
Thank you so much for reading!! Any thoughts and comments are welcome 🙂
Kent A. Ono and Vincent Pham, Asian Americans and the Media: Chapter 5, “Threatening Model Minorities: The Asian American Horatio Alger Story”