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This blog celebrates the beauty of Asian men by illustrating the depth and variety that is so often missed by those who make foolish statements like "All Asians look the same." It is primarily a photo blog, but I will also occasionally write comments related to Asian men and gay life as it relates to them.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

How I Met Your Mother's Asian Insensitivity?

One of my favorite shows on TV, now in its second season, is the CBS sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. It is consistently one of the most clever comedy shows on TV, only surpassed (in my ever-humble opinion) by the new show 30 Rock. Plus, How I Met Your Mother stars both Willow and Doogie, and you can never go wrong with either of them.

Last night I was belatedly watching Monday's episode on my DVR, an episode with a brilliant concept that didn't quite pull off as a whole, though it had some fabulous gay-themed humor in it. But overall, it seemed the writers were just a bit off their game.

In the episode, Barney (played by my first-ever celebrity crush/recently-outed actor Neil Patrick Harris....some of my earliest masturbation was in high school looking at pictures of him back in his Doogie Howser days) is [ironically] visited by his gay black brother James, played by Wayne Brady. How Barney a white guy and James a black guy are brothers is a mystery that is one of the running gags of the episode.

Barney is the ultimate dedicated single guy, avoiding commitment at all costs. James, apparently, is the gay version of Barney. So the two of them--since they never were competing for the same person--would help each other to score hookups (Barney helping James to pick up guys, and James helping Barney to pick up girls).

One example of this partnership, though, actually has me wondering if I should be upset or if I am reading more into the situation than I should. During a flashback, James is shown in a gay bar lying on his back, seeming not to be breathing.

Barney calls out to a group of guys and asks if anyone knows CPR. Quickly, a rather cute Asian guy standing very close by volunteers.

Barney looks at him, scowls, and then calls a tall, muscular (but, in my opinion, much-less-attractive) black guy from across the room to come help.

The basic concept of the joke was very obvious, that James did not actually need CPR, but rather he and Barney were trying to set up an opportunity for James to make out with a hottie. When the first candidate did not measure up to expectations in spite of being medically qualified and close by, a "better" helper was selected although he was unqualified and farther away. It is a rather over-used comic idea, though the basic idea is funny.

But there was one problem. That is, the first, more-qualified guy was attractive. Sure, the second guy was the exotic muscular look, but the Asian guy was very cute. In fact, had I seen the two of them in a bar, there's no question I would go after the Asian guy (yes, I hear you snickering that that is not a big surprise, but my first boyfriend was black, so I definitely find black guys attractive just as I do Asian guys....and Latino guys, and white guys, and... :-).

The only apparent reason for his rejection seemed to be his ethnicity. It seemed as if the underlying thought was, "Asian guys simply are not as desirable as others." For an episode that, at its best points, used humor quite effectively to illustrate the absurdity of homophobic attitudes that are often-present in society, that joke seemed off the mark and unhelpful.

So, did anyone else see the episode? Am I making sense? Or perhaps I'm overreacting and being too sensitive?

Didn't see it? Well, you're in luck! For at least the next couple days (until the next episode airs, I believe), you can watch the episode for free on Innertube (click here). To view the episode, click on the Innertube graphic near the top right, and select the episode "Single Stamina." The CPR scene is about 3 minutes into the second segment.

I'm glad to get feedback from you all about this.


Anonymous said...

From the pictures you provided, I didn't find either CPR guy attractive.

Tim said...

I didn't interpret that as the Asian gay men being less attractive.

I interpreted it as two things:

1) James had already pointed out the man he wanted (and it wasn't the first guy).

2) The show unwittingly buys into the idea that "race for race"; in other words, white for white, black for black, Asian for Asian, Latino for Latino. It's a common racial stereotype in the U.S. Interracial couples are use for laughs, not because they are common.

FYI, I did see a cute interracial couple today on the subway. A very, very handsome, somewhat muscular Chinese guy with great legs. His partner was a slightly older, less-handsome guy. But they were so clearly in love....that intense bond between the two of them filled the whole subway car with warmth.

Tim said...

By the way, the show has had an unfortunate "gay for laughs" episode ("World's Greatest Couple") in which Marshall (played by Jason Siegel) hangs out with his friend, Brad, doing "gay" things. Gay-panic is repeatedly played for laughs. Yeah, it was funny. But it was also unfortunate. So big deal if Marshall were gay?? Then what?

Victor said...

It's great when you find a show that you feel so excited about that you want to share it with the world. I react the same way to Ugly Betty - fantastic writing, clever plot structure and I always feel good about the world when it's over. Everything from Vanessa Williams' lips are gems. ("What David is trying to say is kiss your loved ones goodbye and when you come home expect to find dead pets.") And Michael Urie plays the gay, asthmatic assistant to perfection. Between that and Grey's Anatomy, Thursday nights rock.

Michael said...


I had trouble getting a decent screen capture of the Asian guy, because he was only on screen for a few moments. But he had a very cute way about him, I think.

Michael said...


Yeah, a couple of my friends think I interpreted it incorrectly. I do agree with you on your second point especially that it's sad that interracial couples are still seen as novelties on TV.

Michael said...


I saw the "gays for laughs" episode. Agreed as well. Overall, though, I think they do a decent job. I try to give comedy shows some slack on these things, but it's harder to do so when the comedy hits close to a sensitive point. It's similar to the idea that I find no humor in anything having to do with someone hanging himself after what happened with my boyfriend last year. But I find it's not an uncommon element used in comedy (i.e. - someone pantomiming a noose around his neck to joke about suicide being a preferable option to, say, dealing with his mother-in-law or his wife's nagging). I have to remind myself that I would have found it funny without a second thought before the events of last fall. But it's easy to let it bother me still. I guess that's probably the same thing with my sensitivity to slights toward Asian guys. Like when a Filipino friend of mine took me to dinner one night, the server came up with the bill afterwards and, rather than asking who would like the bill, just handed it directly to me. It seemed to me that she assumed I was paying since I was the white guy, and I got a little irritated by it. But my Filipino friend thought I was being too sensitive. Oh well, I guess we all have those areas we have to fight to keep in balance! Anyway, thanks for the comments! I haven't seen Ugly Betty, but I ought to check that out sometime.