Dr. Ken: “Thanksgiving Culture Clash”

The episode “Thanksgiving Culture Clash” from Dr. Ken talked about the issues Dr. Ken’s family faced when the family members tried to celebrate Thanksgiving among a multicultural family setting. The issue arose from the parents finding out about Molly’s Japanese word tattoo, then eventually extended to the family settling in and incorporating both Korean and Japanese culture into the household, especially during the Thanksgiving dinner. After discovering Molly’s tattoo, Dr. Ken became increasing worried that the children weren’t as familiar with their Korean heritage in comparison to their Japanese background. He then started to dive into all sorts of possibilities that might expose the children to more Korean culture (such as insisting on having Korean dishes (kimchi and bulgogi) and wearing traditional Korean clothing.

This episode reminds me of my family’s attempt in finding a balance between the Taiwanese and American cultures. Since Thanksgiving just passed, I would like to share my family’s tradition during Thanksgiving as well. The biggest difference between the show and my family is that my family doesn’t really have a big family/relatives get-together for Thanksgiving dinner. Not that my family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, rather, Thanksgiving dinner has become more of a small setting with everything toned down (now that I’m in college so I’m not home as often). Like Dave from the show, I’m not entirely sure how to explain my family’s Thanksgiving traditions, either. Because of this, seeing the show addresses a similar situation really speaks to me and presents a position other families may also be in.

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Dr. Ken Blog Post

After watching the Thanksgiving episode of Dr. Ken I was left with some thoughts about the show. I really want to like the show for what it is, a classically formatted American sitcom. This even means the presence of a live studio audience with an exaggerated laugh track in the background. I thought that the concept of the show was cool because it featured Ken Jeong in the lead with an Asian family which is another step forward for Asian American media, along with Master of None and Fresh off the Boat.

Yet I do feel like this show falls short of the latter two in terms of pure quality of the show. I felt that the show is very slapstick and Ken Jeong’s character is not exactly sympathetic or relatable. I do think that the show attempts to tackle social and racial issues like how the white man was upset that chopsticks and not forks were being used for the Thanksgiving meals. I felt that Masters of None and Fresh off the Boat take these issues and put them at the forefront of episodes and make the viewer truly consider the realities of growing up Asian American whereas this show just seems a little more forced and comes off as less of an authentic experience. I read a review of the show that was negative but ultimately hopeful that the show could be powerful and funny with more episodes and better execution and I definitely agree with that.

Clash of Cultures

Dr. Ken is getting very interesting. When I first started to watch the sitcom, I thought it was over exaggerated or over acted. The actors and actresses did not know how to act and it was just off. As I am watching it now, the acting is settle and I’m enjoying it. I don’t mean to criticize the acting of the actors and actress, but it just not seem to go smoothly. I enjoy the silly racial jokes and the family problems that usually occurs in Asian Families. The most recent episode might have been one of my favorite episode. I like the clash of the two culture of the parents, Japanese and Korean. We sometimes forget where we come from and this episode is a way to remind us to always try to go back to our roots. The son’s movie project we hilarious. I like how he twisted the family dinner to correspond to history and of the pilgrims. The conclusion of the video project was a nice ending to the episode, and it made me thinking of how my video project for this class show be like.

Dr. Ken

Compared to Master of None, Dr. Ken fails in creating agency in television and actually is just a stereotypical sitcom which happens to feature an Asian lead. Dr. Ken tries so hard to present an atypical Asian doctor that his character is unbelievable. He is  supposed to be a family man, a father, but is simply to flamboyant and condescending towards his own children. I understand that the show is attempting to create humor through Ken’s unusual sassy doctor character, but it is forced and distasteful. Also, Dr. Ken’s character could be replaced with any other ethnicity and the sitcom would be just as bad. The only way Dr. Ken’s ethnicity comes into play is when his manager shoots pointed racial statements towards Ken due to the manager’s dislike for Ken. One could say that the show is attempting to underline racial tensions in the workplace through Dr.Ken and his manager’s relationship through those racial insults. However, it soon becomes overused and forced. And so, the pointed statements lose their potential to create agency; rather, they become cringe-worthy one liners. Master of None of the other hand, is more subtle with the humor and flows naturally. This is also due to the way the show is filmed along with the quality. The quality of the cinematography is soft, displaying real life better than Dr. Ken which uses very direct sets and cinematography, leaving the audience to focus solely on the characters and plot itself. I feel like because M.o.N. uses better quality cameras to film along with more sets, it adds to the depth of the plot and characters. It becomes real. The aesthetics are similar to that of a movie, so when the humor hits, it is unexpected in a way, making the humor more subtle and not as in-your-face. M.o.N. captures the Asian-American experience very well. Aziz is a normal guy with an American accent. He is not playing a stereotypical Asian character. He also points out challenges he faces as a P.o.C., initiating dialogues about Asian-American struggles in a tasteful, funny manner.

Thanksgiving With Dr. Ken

I had the pleasure of watching this last Dr. Ken episode with my sister and we laughed at the similarities that we’ve dealt with at thanksgiving. The main feud of this episode was the split between Allison’s Japanese culture and Ken’s Korean culture. It all started with Molly’s Japanese tattoo being discovered, and the fact that it was a Japanese tattoo that bothered Ken. This was something my sister and I laugh at because our mom would have reacted the same way. Anyways, it soon escalated to a culture argument between the two parents, and who was implementing their culture better.

Side note, I would like to point out how Ken’s boss intruded on his Thanksgiving dinner, almost like how the pilgrims came over unannounced and took what they could from the Native Americans. Also, in the episode, they kept using the term faded Asian, or something of that sort, and I felt that it had the same context as white-washed. I know for a fact that I grew up white-washed in my culture. I don’t speak Tagalog nor do I know much about the Filipino traditions. But what I do know is I can’t learn all about my culture in one day. And I have taken the initiative to slowly learn more about my Filipino culture by joining clubs. At the end of the episode, Ken has a small heart to heart talk with his father and goes to fix Thanksgiving dinner. I think this was a great episode to show the differences in cultures and how they can act together as one instead of two separate entities.

Dr. Ken and the Internalized Self-discrimination

The first thing caught my eye when I watched Dr. Ken (2015-)[1], which is ABC sitcom leading by Ken Jeong, is the name of the hospital in what Dr. Ken works, namely, the Welltopia Medical Group[2]. I intuitively translated the neologism “Welltopia” into its homophonic “Utopia”. I think the design of the name echoes to the lighthearted tint of the TV drama. However, could Dr. Ken really amuse its audience as if it is a sweet dream of Utopia for them?

I highly doubt it.

Dr. Ken Premiere Poll By TV LineAccording to the poll raised by Ryan Schwartz[3], who is a TV critic from the TV Line Media, 27.16% of the viewers gave an F for the premiere of Dr. Ken. Even though we can challenge the validity of the poll because of the presumably small sample size, I do not think we should hesitate to give up the opportunity to make the show more loveable for audience through identifying potential problems of the it.

One reason I can think about would make audience dislike the pilot episode is the picky characteristic setting of Dr. Ken Park. As Schwartz has pointed out, “Ken Park is portrayed as a horny husband, an overprotective father for all of the wrong reasons, and a doctor who thinks all of his patients are “whiny, complainy bitches.” [4]

Compare the characteristic setting of Dr. Ken with other Asian American characters in sitcoms; Dr. Ken is definitely an unfamiliar image. On one hand, Dr. Ken is way more sexually active than Raj Koothrappali (played by Kunal Nayyar in The Big Bang Theory (2007-))[5], Dr. Ken kisses his wife Allison (Mrs. Park) several times in the first episode. He even makes some seduce joke with his wife.

On other hand, unlike the passive restaurant owner Han Lee (played by Mathew Moy in boss 2 Broke Girls (2011-))[6] Dr. Ken is a dominant figure in the drama. He is the most powerful attending doctor, who leads three nurses in the clinic. In short, the sexually active and occupationally powerful image of Dr. Ken may fail to fulfill some audience expectancy. The image of Dr. Ken shows that Asian American can be neither quiet nor submissive. I think the dramatic change of Asian American’s image in the public sphere could end up be considered as “bad acting” or “bad story” for some “old-fashioned” audience.

After I gave a C (It was OK) in Schwartz’s poll for the premiere and think about reason for the almost 1/3 F ratting. I then ask myself, would I give the first episode a higher rate if Dr. Ken is played by a white actor, in other words, would Dr. Ken become more laughable if the story is based on a setting of white doctor family ?

Pathetically, I think I may.

For anybody who thinks a WHITE Dr. Ken will make the story more convincing and lovable, let us cross our fingers and may the TV Drama will last longer than our internalized self-discrimination.

Dr. Ken by ABC

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[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3216608/?ref_=ttep_ep_tt

[2] https://twitter.com/drkenabc/status/648180801935437825

[3] http://tvline.com/2015/10/02/dr-ken-recap-ken-jeong-series-premiere/

[4] Id.

[5] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898266/

[6] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1845307/

Give Ken A Chance

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The Dr. Ken Show received a lot of negative criticism from critics after the pilot premiered and I am going to be honest — I did not really like the show after watching the first episode either. It was kind of annoying because Ken was so whiney, but as I kept watching the show, the more he grew on me. I will admit, thought, Julie is still annoying playing the ditzy character, but maybe she’ll grow on me too.

After I had very much enjoyed Fresh Off the Boat right from the start, I was disappointed to find the first episode to be quite slow. Ken was quite whiney and the way he treated his patients was kind of funny, but mostly rude so he was more annoying than charming. It was not until the end of the first episode when he gets arrested of trying to find Molly (his daughter), that I started enjoying the show. As I kept watching each episode, the show as a whole continued to grow on me as the characters were allowed to develop. This is very true for many shows, so the criticism is very unnecessary, in my opinion.

It is especially unnecessary because this show is very important. There is much criticism that the show is really bad because of how white washed it is. However, what needs to be realized that many second generation families like this are mostly white washed. There is a sense of culture that comes out more so when spending time with the grandparents, as we see when Ken’s parents come over for dinner and Molly complains about how they always ask the same things in their broken English. From my own experience, this is pretty accurate to a certain extent.

Much like my thoughts on Fresh Off the Boat, all of these shows are going to criticized for being too general or too political. You have to remember that this is a TV show. Fresh Off the Boat is based off of one individual’s experienced. That means it’s not going to match everyone else’s. At the same it’s also on TV so it’s going to generalize and be dramatized in a way that will appeal to more viewers. The same is true for Dr. Ken — they are a more white washed family, but many second generation families are. Some people will directly related, and some people will complain about things they don’t necessarily understand. Asian-American families are not that much different than everyone else, which is what it seems like everyone else wants these shows to display.

Allison gave Ken a chance as opposed to marrying Dr. Kevin O’Connell, and she turned out with a happy life, let’s give Ken a chance too.