Dear Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Thank You from a West Covina Filipina
Dear creators, actors, and producers of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,
First off, as a West Covina native, I want to thank you for putting West Covina on the map. Thanks for showing that Southern California isn’t one blob of beach glamour but rather, it’s made of a ton of diverse suburbs that many Southern Californians call home. Sure, West Covina is a boring town that took me 18 years to get out of, but it’s also lovable — which Crazy Ex definitely portrays.
Last Monday night, you aired your 6th episode “My First Thanksgiving with Josh!” in which Rebecca Bunch spends Thanksgiving with her ex-boyfriend Josh Chan’s family — and they happen to be Filipino.
You should be proud of yourselves. This has been called a “landmark moment for Filipinos on American TV” and it’s probably the first time a lot of Filipinos have been on an American TV show all at once. The CW is also changing the game with its other programs — – more specifically, Jane the Virgin, for which actress Gina Rodriguez has won a Golden Globe for Best Actress (the first Golden Globe ever won for the network). In an industry where people of color seem to be deprived of screen time, y’all are doing something right.
I want to take the time to show you exactly what you did right, whether you meant to or not. As if seeing my hometown on broadcast television didn’t give me enough feels, seeing Filipinos —- people who look like me and my family — made me straight up sentimental.
So, while the warm fuzzies and butterflies last, I want to thank you for:
Recognizing us as “Asian”… You show that we also go through the pressure of the model minority myth, and that this myth is destructive. Josh just wants to work at a chill electronics store, but his dad wants him to work in a hospital. Instead of presenting the model minority as being entirely constitutive of Josh’s personality, you show how he struggles against it — a struggle that resonates with many Asian Americans, including Filipino Americans.
…but also specifying us as “Filipino.” But you also got some Filipino-specific details: the fact that many of us are Catholic by way of the Spanish, our cuisine (bless Rebecca and her diniguan-related troubles), and the workings of a Filipino party. You also showed that we come from everywhere. When Josh lists the cities his family members are coming from, you cleverly mention cities with large Filipino populations — Stockton, Temecula, Glendale, just to name a few.
Showing how important family is to Filipinos. When you represent Filipinos on screen and you want to do it accurately, you better make sure to show how important family is to us. You not only did that, but you also made family the center of the entire “My First Thanksgiving with Josh!” episode and a constant site of struggle for Rebecca throughout the series. Rebecca is right to ask, “Would I like to be surrounded by the unconditional love of 100 Filipinos?” Of course she would. Filipino families are big and they show some big love, too.
For simply putting us on the screen. .Before Crazy Ex, it was hard to recall seeing a Filipino who wasn’t Manny Pacquiao anywhere on American television. Filipinos are the second largest Asian American population in Los Angeles, but we are practically invisible when it comes to television or film — only 6% of main characters on TV are Asian. You’ve made a dent in that percentage with Josh Chan, which is a big deal.
Of course, the show — no matter how awesomely campy — is not without its faults. Allow me to make some suggestions:
- Don’t cross the line with the stereotypes. They were funny, but you tend to go wild with them… which could be a hit or miss. I get that you were poking fun at Rebecca by satirizing her through the age-old trope of the “Mighty Whitey,” but we’re still really underrepresented, so the few representations that do exist will likely shape the perceptions that others have of us. Any variation of us as “The Other” is a bit sketch.
- Be careful with the representations of other folks of color on the screen, specifically the Latina characters. Valencia is hypersexualized; Mrs. Hernandez doesn’t talk (Please clarify this in future episodes). Also, West Covina’s population is 45.73% Latino —- clearly not reflected in your show.
- Bring back the boba guys from the Cup of Boba hut. Because they were hilarious. And the 626 loves its boba.
Much love and power to you,
Featured image courtesy of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/CW