Exploration of Ken Jeong’s character in “Community”

I have decided not to use the first representation that I experienced of an Asian American person in the media, but rather a more recent representation. I have decided to do this because the particular character that I will be referring to is very different in comparison to his fellow Asian American counterparts in other shows. His character is a very bold, outgoing, and confident man who plays on his Asian heritage many times during an episode for comedic effect.

This character is Ken Jeong’s portrayal of Señor Chang in the show “Community”. He is introduced in the second episode of the first season, and absolutely steals the spotlight for the few minutes of airtime he gets. This is the same man that played Leslie Chao in The Hangover. Señor Chang is introduced in a two minute monologue that has some very interesting quotes when analyzed in regard with yellow peril, controlling images, and orientalism.

He has several quotes during this monologue that take stereotypes and yellow peril head on. Ken Jeong’s character asks these rhetorical questions to himself when he is addressing the class: “Señor Chang, why do you teach Spanish? They say it just like that, why do you teach Spanish? Why not math? Why not photography? Why not martial arts? I mean surely, it must be in my nature to instruct you in something that is ancient and secret, like building a wall that you can see from outer space. I’ll tell you why I teach Spanish; it is none of your business!”. He later goes on to say “I don’t want to have any conversations about what a mysterious and inscrutable man I am (Insert stereotypical evil Asian laugh)”.

His character shows that many people have asked him before why he isn’t just your typical Asian teacher that should be teaching math or martial arts. This is a byproduct of the controlling image that media has given the public about Asian Americans, one that all Asian Americans are great at math and martial arts among other things. Mysterious and Inscrutable play into the yellow peril dimension, as does the Asian-sounding evil laugh that Señor Chang does after the above quotes. The orientalism aspect is touched on with the great wall reference, as it is a mysterious and exotic achievement the Chinese have pulled off.

Overall, I like what the writers of “Community” have done with Ken Jeong’s character. They did not just take the easy way out and made him a typecast Asian character. His character is even more fleshed out in later episodes and shows a new dynamic of how different an Asian American can be from the controlling image of a typical Asian American.

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One thought on “Exploration of Ken Jeong’s character in “Community”

  1. Hi Patrick, I like your analysis of how the Chang characters counters many typical APA stereotypes–he definitely does not embody a “model minority” (!). But I am a bit troubled by his “outsider”-ness related to the rest of the characters. They’re all odd and have their own problems, but he frequently represents a “threat” to the group. What do you think?

    Kathy

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