Why Is American Born Chinese Controversial? Here’s Some of the Reasons

American Born Chinese just dropped on Disney Plus with a promising future of getting its second season renewal. However, some viewers were seemingly reluctant to watch and enjoy the Disney Plus series, here’s why.

WARNING: This article contains MINOR SPOILERS for American Born Chinese. So read at your own risk!

What Makes American Born Chinese Series Controversial?

What Makes American Born Chinese Series Controversial?
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Credit: Disney

American Born Chinese marched up to new territories through a seemingly MCU-related supernatural series but is actually an original adaptation from Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel of the same name.

Series-wise, some viewers and fans of American Born Chinese keep pointing out that the show practically ‘white-washed’ the Asian-American experience, considering that Asian students are limitedly cast in the series.

Apart from the main characters Jin (Ben Wang) and Wei-Chen (Jimmy Liu), American Born Chinese also featured other Asian characters leading their school’s Culture Club as president to protect their rights.

Although, that list of cast members does not even include the adults working behind the scenes between the heavens and the Earth.

Now, see, the original source material actually had a key problematic character named Chin-Kee, the cousin of Danny who embodied harmful Chinese stereotypes, meant to present how foreigners saw their people.

The existence of Chin-Kee was to provide a narrative into pointing out the baseless stereotypes that have long been wrongfully associated with Chinese, and though Yang had his own explanation for Chin-Kee’s existence, he told The New York Times:

“I was always freaked out that if [American Born Chinese] was ever adapted, clips of that character would show up on YouTube, you know? Completely contextualized.”

While Yang’s American Born Chinese graphic novel has not exactly been banned, it has been overly criticized for its questionable use of ethnic stereotypes.

As provided by Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), Yang had a clear statement as to why he believes his American Born Chinese book should not be banned.

Yang explained in his short comic strip that Chin-Kee is supposed to represent “exaggerated depictions of Asian and Asian American stereotypes” in which are not meant to “embrace these stereotypes” but rather inform his young readers.

Yang added that banning books like his would only cause more harm than good, with the prejudice attached to this banning by outwardly claiming that there is a “sameness” in people, in which all his readers would depict the same harmful message.

In fact, Yang is striving to inform his young readers that the message of American Born Chinese is not a ‘one for all’ type of lesson. You can check out his panel below:

What Makes American Born Chinese Series Controversial?
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Credit: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF)

RELATED: Is American Born Chinese A Part of the MCU?

What Happened To The Controversial American Born Chinese Character in the Disney Plus Series?

What Happened To The Controversial American Born Chinese Character in the Disney Plus Series?
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Credit: Disney

Fortunately, this brought the series to replace Chin-Kee with a closely similar character and that is Ke Huy Quan’s role as Freddy Wong.

Freddy Wong was depicted to be an embodiment of how America sees Chinese and American Chinese people, and according to Looper, Ke Huy Quan’s newly added character serves as a replacement for Chin-Kee.

Freddy was shown as clumsy, slow-witted, lacks common sense in the English language, and with his catchphrase, “What could go Wong?”

Though he was a comic-relief character from the ‘90s sitcom, Beyond Repair, American Born Chinese also showed the impact on the actor’s life.

Freddy’s iconic catchphrase is what haunted Ke Huy Quan’s character in trying to rise back up in the acting industry, because in spite of his representation, people still knew him as the clumsy Asian who starred in a problematic bigoted sitcom.

Freddy openly admits throughout the series that he is not interested in returning to the rebooted version unless he would no longer be instructed to say, “What could go Wong?” which is Freddy’s surname being used as a ‘pun’ for ‘What could go wrong?’

Nearing the end of American Born Chinese, Freddy was given the chance to return on the set of the sitcom. To him, it was another chance at success.

While to the sitcom audience and host, it was to continue making fun of his stereotypical character in the guise of ‘celebrating’ his identity as a whole.

To this, Freddy did not waste his time and admitted that he had always wanted to star as a superhero who goes on a journey, rather than stay as the ‘What could go Wong’ character on the series, further unpacking how his life has always been affected by his sitcom role.

Overall, Disney’s American Born Chinese adaptation is the more tamed and modern version of its graphic novel source material.

Though more tamed, the series didn’t fail to highlight the problematic experiences Asians and Asian American people still go through in America.

You can now catch up on all episodes of American Born Chinese available to stream on Disney Plus!

ALSO READ: American Born Chinese Season 2 Release Date, Cast, Plot, Trailer & More!

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