Asian-American identity is finally represented by an exchange student from Seoul; Kyon, introduced with no last name. Mrs Kim acquires her essentially as a replacement for Lane after kicking her out. Kyon appears in just five, sporadic episodes. After the audience is first introduced to her in Season 4, we don’t see her again until Season 5. After this length, she appears in Luke’s Diner where Lane is working; hungry and weak, from Mrs Kim’s strict Korean diet. This scene initiates Kyon’s seemingly first encounter with American culture, introduced by Lane. Kyon’s actress was born in New York but in a fake Korean accent she asks; “What is this?” “Fries.” She loves them: “Welcome to America.” Later in the episode with more Diner food, Kyon prays grace for every ingredient. She also overhears Lane’s boyfriend Zach Van Gerbig asking her to see a band and have dinner with him. Consequently, Mrs Kim finds Zach on the street, starts hitting him, and yells:

You! You dirty, filthy devil boy! You will pay for this. You will burn in hellfire for this! You will swim in the sludge with Satan’s hell-dogs, and feed them your innards for eternity!… She’s an innocent girl. And you are a wild pig of filth! I know! I know all you do!

Lane is firstly angry Kyon got them in trouble but the bond they share, as second-generation Korean’s trying to fit into America, is stronger than her concerns about her Korean mother. As a result, Lane imparts her knowledge about ‘surviving’ as a Korean-American teenager: for instance that the “little machine in the television set that will tell her [Mrs Kim] what I watch” does not exist. “I can eat fries… I can watch the TV!… My head spins!” “Stick with me, kid, and I’ll have you wearing lip gloss within a month.” Throughout her remaining episodes, Kyon continues to Americanize her identity, and hide her new life from her Korean background. Overall, the encounters between Gilmore Girls and Korean representation remain within a context of utopian small-town America; where non-American racial identities, and thus racial differences, are hidden.

References:

Chung, H. S. (2010). Escaping from Korea: Cultural authenticity and Asian American identities in Gilmore Girls. In D. S. Diffrient (Ed.), Screwball television: Critical perspectives on Gilmore Girls (pp. 165–185). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Stern, D. M. (2012). It Takes a Classless, Heteronormative Utopian Village: Gilmore Girls and the Problem of Postfeminism. The Communication Review, 15(3)

Advertisements