Blogger’s note: Before I start the regular blog series, this blog will feature Kim’s Convenience, a Canadian sitcom on CBC of a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto. Kim’s Convenience won this year’s Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards and you can watch the first season on Netflix or both seasons on CBC.ca. The first blog for feat. a Korean-Canadian will be up in April.
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, better known as Appa to Kim’s Convenience fans, won his second Best Lead Actor in a Comedy at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards on Sunday, March 11. During his acceptance speech he made a powerful statement on representation.
“Representation matters… when communities and people see themselves reflected up on the screens it is an inspiring and a very powerful moment for them because it means they’ve been moved from the margins into the forefront.”
I grew up watching American TV shows like Full House and Saved by the Bell. I liked these shows but even as a child I knew that someone who looked like me would not be a part of Danny Tanner’s family or be close buddies with Zack and Kelly. Once in awhile there would be Asians on television – Margaret Cho, Bobby Lee, the Yellow Ranger… But it was hard to identify myself with them. Their roles played on stereotypes of Asians, which did not represent me.
Kim’s Convenience embodies my family. Not only do they look like my family but they also sound like my family and they experience similar issues as my family. And it’s not just because the Kims are Koreans. The Kim family showcases the lives of immigrant families in Canada. The struggles of twenty-year-old Janet moving out of the house, Umma trying to be recognized for the work she does, and the tension between Appa and his son, Jung are not just relatable to Korean-Canadians but to all immigrant families. It shows what it’s like to live as hyphenated Canadian families.
As Paul said in his speech, when Kim’s Convenience was announced the Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards, I felt inspired. I was reassured that my Korean-Canadian community and the immigrant communities are included within the Canadian society. Kim’s Convenience has put immigrant families and Asians in the forefront and I hope there will be many more shows like Kim’s Convenience to come.
Additional note: This wasn’t the first time Paul spoke up for representation. Here is Paul’s speech from last year’s Canadian Screen Awards when he won his first Best Lead Actor in a Comedy. His speech is still very relevant today.
“I have to say that I am an immigrant and I am a Canadian and in this weird sort of political time the portrayal of an immigrant family on a national broadcaster doing what all families do, which is try to make a life for themselves… is so much more important now than ever before because it normalizes us. And it shows other people that you know we might have some cultural differences but deep down inside when it comes to family, we are all the same and that our strength has been and always will be diversity in this country. And [I] have never been more proud to be a Canadian than right now.”