This is an episode of the short-lived 1994 sitcom All American Girl, starring comedian Margaret Cho. In it, Cho’s character, Margaret Kim, is shown as a modern American 22-year-old who lives with her very traditional Korean immigrant family. The main themes of the series relate to conflicts between Margaret’s “wild” lifestyle and her family’s expectations of her. In this episode, Margaret takes Amy– her conservative brother’s fiancee, a “proper” young woman who is seen as “perfect” by the Kim family– to a club for a night of partying before her wedding. After having so much fun at the club, Amy finds it difficult to return to her old life, much to the chagrin of Margaret’s brother and the entire family.
How does Margaret differ from kind of characters usually offered to Asian-American women? What traits are attributed to the Kim family to make them seem “traditional” and “Korean” and what traits are attributed to Margaret to make her seem “wild” and “American”? In what ways does the show critique both value systems?
In Cho’s stand-up comedy, she does satirical impressions of her family members, including exaggerated Korean accents. How do these caricatures function differently when played by other actors on a sitcom?
Some might argue that it is empowering that a show to feature an Asian-American woman as the main character, while others might argue that it matters how the show portrays her and how high the overall quality of the show is. What do you think?
Although All American Girl was originally inspired by Cho’s stand-up comedy, she would later claim that, in an effort to boost ratings and appeal to a broader audience, the show wound up bearing little resemblance to its source material. Cho also said that she was coached by producers to first act “more Asian” and then criticized by them for not acting “Asian enough.” She was also strongly encouraged to lose weight for the role. The show was widely criticized for promoting stereotypes of Korean-Americans. Cho was ultimately unhappy with the show and believes it was canceled after one season because it tried too hard to appeal to a mainstream audience and wound up being not funny and poorly written.