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The Office Actor Says Portrayal Of Asian American Woman In Show Was ‘Problematic’

by : Julia Banim on : 30 Mar 2021 13:26
The Office Actor Says Portrayal Of Asian American Woman In Show Was 'Problematic'NBC

An actor who appeared as a guest star on The Office has described the portrayal of Asian American women in the show as ‘problematic’.

Kat Ahn appeared in the third season episode A Benihana Christmas, which saw hapless boss Michael Scott (Steve Carrell) and Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) head out to a Benihana restaurant in a bid to take Michael’s mind off his recent romantic troubles, bringing Jim and Dwight along with them.

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While at the restaurant, Michael and Andy start flirting with two Asian-American waitresses, and decide to invite them back to their office Christmas part as their new ‘girlfriends’.

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Michael unconvincingly tries to act as if he has moved on from being dumped by Carol by showing off his new girlfriend to his colleagues.

However, the women he and Andy bring back are actually not the waitresses they were originally flirting with. To make matters worse, Michael then quickly forgets which of the two waitresses he had arrived with, leading to him marking them out on the arm with a Sharpie pen.

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Speaking with The Washington Post, Ahn revealed that she had initially been excited to land a guest spot on The Office, but then realised that she was ‘just there to be the joke’.

Ahn said:

You’re told to shut up and be grateful. Actors have no power until they become a star.

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In a TikTok video back in January, Ahn told her followers:

I actually understood why BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) actors play racist roles. You know, sometimes you gotta pay your rent. Sometimes you want to join the union. Sometimes you just don’t want your agent to drop you. Also this episode was before, you know, wokeness.

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.

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This episode has previously been discussed on the Office Ladies podcast, with co-hosts and former stars of the show – Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey – admitting that the scenes with the waitresses made them ‘cringe’.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Film and TV, Now, The Office

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The Washington Post and 2 others
  1. The Washington Post

    Asian women say Hollywood has failed them for decades. They’re ready for meaningful change.

  2. Kat Ahn/TikTok

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  3. Office Ladies

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