Is The Office awful?
It may be, to hear one actress tell it.
As reported by People, thespian Kat Ahn once assumed the role of an Asian waitress on the beloved comedy.
In the 2007 episode “A Benihana Christmas,” office manager Michael Scott — played by actor Steve Carell — can’t tell Kat’s character apart from a fellow waitress.
After flirting with a different pair of waitresses at Benihana, he and the character of Andy Bernard bring Kat and another girl back to the company Christmas party.
Michael remarks to other male characters, “You know how all waitresses look alike.”
He marks the arm of one of the women so as to distinguish them.
Apparently, Kat doesn’t think it’s very funny.
Therefore, she’s calling out the show.
Via a TikTok video posted in January — titled “Things I Learned as an Asian American Actress on the #Beninhanaxmas Episode of #TheOffice #TheOfficeParody #TheOfficeTikTok #TheOfficeMemes” — Kat clawed at the clumsiness of writing racial stereotypes.
Additionally — judging from an interview with The Washington Post — though she was initially excited to be cast on the knee-slapper, she felt slapped to learn she was “just there to be the joke.”
Kat lamented that “actors have no power until they become a star.”
On TikTok, the entertainer referenced BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, People of Color):
“I actually understood why BIPOC actors play racist roles. You know, sometimes you gotta pay your rent. Sometimes you wanna join the union. Sometimes you just don’t want your agent to drop you. Also, this episode was before, you know, wokeness.”
She described the episode and doused it with that worst of all modern undesirables — “problematic”:
“The storyline with myself and the other Asian American actress is that we were the ‘uglier’ version of the actresses at the Benihana. Also that all Asian people look alike, we’re one big monolith, and we’re just one big walking stereotype without any personality or individuality. Which is problematic.”
She’s not alone in her view.
On the Office Ladies podcast, cohosts — and former stars of The Office — Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey previously discussed [the joke at issue], agreeing that it made them “cringe” while watching.
In a follow-up video, Kat said she took the part “because it was a role.”
“What I realized is that you can’t expect people to create roles for you if they don’t know your experience. And that’s why it’s important for you to create your own content and have your own voice.”
Personally, I’d go a step further: No actor or actress can expect people to create roles for them at all.
Nonetheless, it sounds like things are perking up:
“Asian American creators have a long way to go, especially in Hollywood. But with the success of Minari, Crazy Rich Asians and Parasite, I’m excited for the future for us to create roles that show us as three-dimensional human beings that aren’t all psychos or stereotypes.”
If I had to guess, I’d venture that the intended joke on the show was that Michael was a moron, as many jokes on the show appear to be.
But perhaps I’m wrong.
Either way, I believe Kat’s on the right side of history: Such goofs aren’t likely to ever again grace a screen…as we take further steps into creating a kinder, gentler world.
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