First off, I’m obsessed with this show. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished the last episode of Season 1. (WTF, RIGHT?) I’ve been coping from withdrawal by reading articles about the show, not all of which I agree with but are interesting nonetheless. Most of them talked about the amazingly complex minority characters on the show, which is definitely something to celebrate on a television show since they’ve historically been rare or stereotypical. None have really talked about Chang, the Asian inmate.
And that character is a disappointment.
- Why is there only 1 Asian character? Why not more? Sure, maybe this is supposed to be a reflection of racial makeup in prison. I don’t pretend to know the statistics, so I’ll just assume that’s the case. It would’ve been cool to have more represented onscreen since this is such a great opportunity.
- So Chang is the sole Asian character… and of course, she doesn’t English. Typical. But, you say, the show based on Piper Kerman’s memoir and her personal experience in prison. This character is based off one Asian inmate she knew and she didn’t speak English. Okay fine. But this is a TELEVISION SHOW, not a documentary. SPOILER: Alex and Piper didn’t hook up in real life. They do on the show. This isn’t a show completely reflective of reality! Just inspired by it. So why is it such a stretch that the Asian character could speak fluent English? OITNB has broken many barriers with its portrayal of minority & queer characters, so what’s with the stereotypical Asian woman? How many times have we seen movies and TV shows with an Asian character that speaks broken English? It’s tiresome by now. Accents are funny, but they’re a cheap, quick laugh and nothing new.
- She barely exists in the show, but at the same time, she’s significant because she’s noticeably the only Asian and she has a NAME. If she were a throwaway character she would’ve remained a nameless extra. I don’t know why Chang was included in the show. She just seems like a token Asian person. It would’ve been glaringly obvious if she hadn’t been included, since the prison is full of women of color. She was necessary. But if she’s an important character, I don’t see it right now because…
- Chang barely speaks. She has maybe 2 minutes of screen time total and 5 lines. Even if she doesn’t understand English, she could still speak in Chinese (assuming given her last name). There’s that one lady who hides in a stall and yells things at her husband/boyfriend in a different language! They’ve already tried it on the show and it works, so why not Chang?
- In the context of the show, Chang is relatively quiet and invisible. At Tricia’s tribute, Chang doesn’t say a word but gives the group of prisoners a bag of oranges and then walks away quietly. COME ONNNN. Of course the Asian woman is quiet and unassertive and doesn’t cause any problems (this scene plus the office scene with Mr. Healy, Taystee, and Piper). Because Asian women are quiet, docile, and follow the rules. Except then, WHY IS SHE IN PRISON? She did something to get there and we have no idea what it is. Chang is one of the only characters we didn’t see any flashbacks for. I would LOVE to see what got her in there.
- Even without doing a flashback Chang has the potential to be a great and complex character that is more than meets the eye. They could pull a Norma. She didn’t say a word the entire season and then in the last episode it was revealed she has an amazing voice. UM AWESOME. Like maybe a little predictable, but still. She isn’t just a quiet old lady. Chang could have that other side to her too. Wouldn’t it be awesome if she were some badass who killed a man, like Miss Claudette? They’ve already created some amazing characters. Chang could be another one.
I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHO THE FUCK CHANG IS.