In the Season 2 finale (which turned out to also be the series finale) of Lipstick Jungle, we meet Victory Ford’s parents.
Now, actress Lindsay Price is half Korean, half “white bread American,” but no mention is made of Victory’s ethnic heritage until this last episode. The only slight reference we get is when she and Wendy move a folding partition from Victory’s store into Wendy’s apartment to create a home-office space. The wall divider has Korean characters on it, and Victory jokes about what they mean.
Note: We could assume that Victory’s somewhat conservative stance on nudity and alcohol draws from an Asian-influenced upbringing… But I don’t think that was really the writers’ intention. I think they chalked that up to her being from the traditional-values-loving Midwest.
Anyway, as a fellow halfie, part of me liked that Victory’s background was never an issue, and part of me was disappointed.
On the one hand, it’s no fun when ethnicity becomes a character’s defining trait. It’s too easy to get caught up in race politics that way, not to mention stereotypes and bad jokes. So I’m glad that Victory just was whoever she was — “incidentally Asian” — without it coming up all the time.
On the other hand, ethnicity and culture do play a part in one’s identity. Whether you embrace it, deny it, or something in between, it’s a factor. So for it to never come up seems a bit odd. Would it have been so hard to show a Korean influence in Victory’s home decor? Or in her fashion designs? Would that not have made her more distinct as a character, without it becoming a Thing that needed to be mentioned aloud?
Sidebar: Actually, that balance is something I think the writers of Cashmere Mafia handled well with Lucy Liu and her character Mia Mason. Mia’s Asian-ness is never directly mentioned by her friends or coworkers, but at some point we meet her parents, and we get a few cultural insights (from all sides) when they try to set her up with a handsome Chinese neurosurgeon.
Look, it’s not like I run around shouting “I’m half Asian!” Many people would probably never even know. But my heritage does subtly color my thoughts, my values, and my actions. It would be nice to see that accurately depicted more often.
To be clear: I’m not saying Lipstick Jungle did a bad job. Far from it. I just think they could have done better. (And who knows, maybe that’s an angle they were planning to explore if the show continued.)