As a Hawaii girl, I love “Hawaii Five-0.” My dad and I used to watch re-runs of the original and I was pretty hooked for the first few seasons of the reboot. I started to lose track of episodes because I did not have cable television in my dorm room. So I ended up taking a four year hiatus from the show and just caught re-runs on TNT when I was home.
Although, I am a little biased because any show that is filmed in Hawaii and/or shows the unique diversity of the islands is definitely at the top of my list. Unlike some movies (i.e. Aloha). For instance, I was obsessed with “Lost” because I could identify the different parts of the island and I loved how Hawaii doubled as Los Angeles and Australia. I did not understand representation on television when “Lost” was on television because I was in the 5th grade but that show had a pretty diverse cast.
But when “Hawaii Five-0” came out when I was in high school, I was fully aware that it was a big deal that there were not one, but two, Asian American leads. Not to mention, one of those actors was a “Lost” favorite, Daniel Dae Kim who played Jin in “Lost” and Chin Ho Kelly in “Hawaii Five-0.” The other Asian American actor was Grace Park who played Kono Kalakaua. A bonus was the integration of Hawaii’s culture, which wasn’t done by “Lost” but it did not take place in Hawaii so they get a pass.
But now, those two actors have left the show.
According to Variety.com, “Park and Kim had been seeking pay equality with starts Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series. CBS’s final offer to Kim and Park was believed to have been 10-15% lower than what O’Loughlin and Caan make in salary.”
It’s hard for any minority to find representation on a big network show. Keep in mind this is solely speaking about my point-of-view as an Asian American.
Even though I am female, Daniel Dae Kim inspired me as an Asian American. Usually Asian women are the only race to find Asian men attractive. I know that’s not 100% true but generally speaking that’s how it is. And I understand why. In the media, Asian men are always portrayed as the clown. Who is going to save you from the burning building? Probably a tall, blue-eyed white male. Who is going to console you? Your male, Asian (strictly platonic) best friend.
I mean who could take Asian men seriously when they are portrayed like this:
Yes, I pulled out the pictures of Mickey Rooney’s racist portrayal in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I know it was different times and all but come on… But this is how people saw Asian men! They weren’t sexy. Didn’t you see that picture I put of Daniel Dae Kim? He’s hot! And not only Asian women think he’s hot!
Daniel Dae Kim changed the game.
What about Jackie Chan? Yes, he did represent a masculine image of an Asian man but from what I recall he rarely got the girl in the end. Or if he did, she was probably Asian. Bruce Lee is a another “masculine” Asian man that comes to mind. But in mainstream media and culture, Daniel Dae Kim became a main player. He plays a cop that solves crime and gets the same cool action sequences as Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan in “Hawaii Five-0.” But come to find out, Daniel Dae Kim wasn’t getting paid as much as his white co-stars. I guess I’m not surprised. I am trying to focus on the Asian American aspect but I see twice the struggle for Grace Park as an Asian American woman.
The news about their departures from the show really sadden me. I understand that Kim and Park weren’t the headliners of the show but they represented a group of people.
I got to see Kono kick ass and chase down the bad guy. Sure, there were some “sexy” Kono sequences but I would not say she was over-sexualized like most Asian women. Especially because the show took place in Hawaii, her race wasn’t just a way to make her character seem mysterious or exotic. Asians are a majority in Hawaii. I’m sure I’m not the only Asian woman that thinks her character was empowering.
As I mentioned, Daniel Dae Kim portrayed an Asian man that could save you from the burning building. He could get laid. He is the brains and the muscle. He’s not some white guy in yellow face tripping over things in his kimono and wooden sandals. I’m sure Daniel Dae Kim has a sense of humor but he’s no joke. He is someone I look up to because he represented a small part of me on a show that had a diverse audience. He created an equal representation with his white co-stars. From the episodes I watch, his character added a whole new facet to the show along with Park’s character. It’s sad to know he left the show because he couldn’t get paid as much, or even closer, to the salary of this white co-stars… But like I said, I’m not surprised. In fact, I’m surprised these actors lasted for seven full seasons. I’d like to think they continued doing the show because they love it and they want to keep the fans happy.
Even if Park and Kim aren’t leaving “Hawaii Five-0” because they are taking a stand against discrimination, I would like to think it had a small part to play. Maybe they thought enough is enough so we have to go. They gave fans seven full seasons of their lives. I’m grateful to both of these actors that represented Asian Americans in a different way. I hope to see them again on television and/or the big screen.
Until then, aloha and mahalo Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.