My best friend sent me a clip of Conan O’Brien and an Asian guy named Steven Yeun going to a Korean spa in Los Angeles. Like always, Conan had me giggling and I went into fits of laughter as he went butt-naked into the hot tubs (just watch the video, trust me).
Still, when the clip ended I had one question lingering through my mind:
“Who’s that Asian guy?”
“What?” My best friend was in shock. “Have you not seen The Walking Dead?”
I’m clueless when it comes to the latest “trends” in the United States, since I’ve been in Asia for the previous six years. All I know is Taylor Swift is played far too much on the radio (and I can’t stand her) and American Idol is (unfortunately) still on the air (right?). The only show I keep up with is Game of Thrones.
“You HAVE to watch The Walking Dead, Mary!” my friend screamed through the phone. “And Glenn–the Asian guy–he’s the coolest character in the show!”
An Asian actor in a show that, as I found out with further research, gets the (white) girl in the end?
I had to check it out.
Finally, an Asian-American Character Without All the Nasty Stereotypes
When it comes to Asian actors in Hollywood, a slew of images always come to mind: thick-rimmed geeks, kung fu masters, or an awkward character with a heavy accent. Asian-Americans rarely get a chance to make it big in western media without a stereotype attached. In fact, when Americans see Asians in a movie or TV series, we almost expect them to either be a book-smart nerd that saves the day with math, or a kung fu spy a la Jackie Chan.
Not so with Glenn.
Glenn (Steven Yeun) pulls the team together and starts calculating a strategy as early as episode two, when zombies crowd in and start to break down the door to their hideout. Even in the heat of the moment, he devises a plan and allocates the men so that they can clear a route and escape from the zombies.
“Wow kid,” his fellow survivor remarks. “What did you do before all this?”
I flinched. Here it was: He was going to be a big-shot engineer for the federal government, or a math professor at a university, or perhaps even an accountant.
Glenn looks at him in surprise.
“Dude, I was delivering pizzas.”
Not only is Glenn an Asian character without all the accompanying stereotypes, but he’s super likable. In fact, in an IMDB poll Glenn was voted top three most popular character in the series–and I can see why! He wasn’t just thrown in there as “the token Asian guy,” he’s a character with real depth, emotion and struggle. In the show, he’s known and respected throughout the group of survivors as the ‘go-to’ guy for fetching supplies in dangerous regions and sneaking through hordes of zombies. In fact, Glenn is a vital member of the cast and without him the crew would most definitely be devoured by zombies: He’s essential!
Not Only That, But He Gets The Girl!
“Oh, The Walking Dead? I’ve heard of that show. There’s an AMWF (asian male, white female) relationship in it” my boyfriend remarked when I asked him about my newly discovered zombie show. “His girl is pretty cute, too.”
“No way!” my jaw dropped. “I need to look this up.”
Indeed, Glenn melts the heart of young Maggie, a cute (and tough) southern bell that lives on a farm with her surviving family, protecting them from the undead.
Since I’m in an AMWF relationship, I’m an automatic fan of the couple–but imagine my surprise when I find out that most Walking Dead viewers are cheering for a Maggie and Glenn match. In fact, fans are so supportive of the couple that a new word has been created in honor of the two: #gleggie.
Even when I type ‘walking dead’ into Google, Maggie’s name automatically pops up following Glenn:
(BTW, really hoping he doesn’t die! But living 5 seasons in this show is no easy feat, trust me).
The Walking Dead: A Good Show, But Not For Everyone
I’ve been raving about this show and Glenn for the last 650 words, but unfortunately I can’t recommend it to everyone. It’s quite violent and it’s not exactly a mood booster. Despite the deep cast of characters and, in my opinion, the best modern portrayal of an AMWF couple to date yet, this show is not everyone’s cup of tea.
If you can take blood, guts, gore and don’t mind some seriously intense and heart-skipping moments (think of resident evil or silent hill), then I highly recommend that you give The Walking Dead a try. While it seems like the zombie genre has all but been done over time and time again, this show brings a cast of characters so likable, despicable, dark and deep that you can’t help but wonder how it’s all going to end.
Either way, it makes me happy to see an Asian-American not only featured in popular western media, but also tearing down stereotypes and opening doors for even more Asian actors to appear on the big screen. FINALLY we get a character that isn’t defined by his race; on the contrary, Glenn is just a regular guy in America, like you and like me. Whether you’re Chinese, Japanese, black, white or Hispanic, we can all relate to Glenn’s problems (aside from the zombie part) and really, that’s what makes character development (in any show) truly good.
Anyway, I’m off to watch another episode. Go Glenn!