Simu Liu’s statement on ‘Kim’s Convenience’ is a monumental act of progress in the entertainment industry

Though flawed, 'Kim’s Convenience' proved that lighthearted racialized stories can exist in mainstream media

'Kim’s Convenience' came to a close after five seasons.
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A show like Kim’s Convenience has a deep impact by virtue of its existence. Regardless of how you may feel about the show’s writing or character development, Kim’s gave hope and optimism to the future of TV.

It showed Asian Canadians—and racialized Canadians in general—that people can look like us in mainstream entertainment, and that entertainment can be positively received. 

It also proved that entertainment starring racialized people doesn’t always have to be centered on trauma. While I love Dear White People and One Day at a Time—both comedies that center on issues of social justice—there was something so refreshing about watching the Kim family simply exist.

The most compelling aspects of the show, like Jung’s strained relationship with his father and Mrs. Kim’s health issues, weren’t centered on racial identity. The Kim family was very obviously racialized, as were many side characters on the show, and they were allowed to have issues and joy and drama that extended far beyond their race.

That’s rare.

So, of course, I was even more disappointed to find out that the show’s abrupt conclusion was a result of racism on set. The bubble that was Kim’s Convenience burst very quickly.

In a Facebook post released on Jun. 2, one of the show’s stars Simu Liu revealed that the mistreatment of actors as well as a lack of Asian representation in the writer’s room were what ultimately led the producers not to renew Kim’s.

Towards the end of the show, Liu stated he was “growing increasingly frustrated with the way [his] character was being portrayed and, somewhat related, was also increasingly frustrated with the way [he] was being treated.”

He went on to detail that Kim’s cast was not given any level of creative control—even in cases where they felt plots were being whitewashed or underdeveloped—and were not given the chance to re-negotiate their pay as the show grew more successful.

This is a story heard time and time again, on TV and in any other mainstream entertainment. While stories of racialized peoples can find great success—because, you know, we can be just as interesting as white folks—racialized creatives are rarely given agency over these stories. Often, they come out underdeveloped in an attempt to cater to white audiences and consequently don’t find success.

This creates an endless cycle where these stories are set up to fail.

The real nail in the coffin is that a spin-off of the show will be centered on the only white main character on Kim’s, Shannon.

It’s frustrating to see Liu sidelined while networks and white producers profit off his identity. It’s also frustrating to see how many people can invalidate an individual like Liu who is hoping to advocate for the show and the fanbase that he loves.

But it’s also progress.

Deep-rooted racism is taking place on the TV sets of all your favourite shows, even the ones you may view as progressive. It always has. It’s always exhausting to hear about it—but it’s monumental that Liu is able to get his side of the story out there.

This Facebook post wouldn’t have been made ten years ago. I’m glad that, now, we’re more ready to have these kinds of conversations, and that actors like Liu are starting to be commended for their bravery rather than just critiqued.

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