I’m sure you’ve heard the outcry from minority groups “We’re underrepresented in the media!” Or “There isn’t a face on TV who I can see myself in!” Or “There aren’t any role models on TV for our people”…… etc. etc.
In previous posts I’ve hinted that I’m Asian, Chinese background to be precise; and I’m going to admit that previously I didn’t really care if Asians were or were not represented in the media (but admittedly if there was an Asian contestant in a reality show, oftentimes we rooted for that person). But by-and-large my apathy towards Asians on-screen is due to finding Asians being kind of cringing for us to watch. *Shudders*. But that was until I watched two reality TV shows which has been airing on Netflix.
The Apartment (2011 – present)
The Apartment is a reality TV interior design competition, where up to 18 international contestants (9 teams of 2) compete in weekly design challenges to each completely renovate a new terrace home. At the conclusion of the competition, the team left standing wins a real-life bonafide luxury apartment! For-real? For-real! In the season that we watched (season 3- 2013), the prize was a brand new double story home at Elmina, Malaysia! Not too shabby indeed. But it does raise the question, what happens when a team comprised of friends win? As the prize ain’t exactly divisible, I just hope down the track it doesn’t result in some ugly dispute between mates. And to add gravitas to the show, our very own Jamie Durie is the host! (Did we know that Jamie is an international phenomena? The contestants lose their sh*t when they first meet him!). So I think Aussie viewers will enjoy this show, as there are familiar faces and the show’s concept is a proven winner if TV ratings for the Block and House Rules are indicators. So if you’re just hanging-out for The Block and House Rules to return for another season, search for:
‘The Apartment’ on your Netflix app to get you through the summer non-ratings season! **Note: At the moment only one season (Season 3- 2013) is available on Netflix Australia. Warning: The above link, links to The Apartment’s Wikipedia page which contain spoilers.
Fit for Fashion (2014 – present)
Fit for Fashion is a reality TV competition hosted by Louise Roe which harks back to popular shows like Survivor and The Biggest Loser; but what is unique about this show compared to other fitness competitions, is that fashion and modelling is incorporated into the mix! What the? The show’s format has up to 14 international contestants converging on a tropical island in Malaysia where they compete as individuals in physical and modelling challenges. Within the duration of an episode, the show is broken down into 3 distinct segments: the first physical challenge (an obstacle course) is designed to test the contestants physically, but to also draw-out their character, leadership qualities, drive and determination. In the middle segment, the contestants are put through a PT session with fitness trainers Christine and Mitch, again to test their physical endurance, their effort, and ‘never give up’ spirit. In the final segment of the episode, the contestants are put through a modelling challenge (which changes from episode to episode) with photographer Todd Anthony Tyler. And based on their performances in all three aspects of the show, the contestants desire to ‘want this’, and the amount of transformation they have exhibited, contestants are retained or shown the door with the some-what cutting tag line of ”You’re not fit for fashion”. Ouch! Initially I was going to recommend Fit for Fashion to others as a show “so bad, it’s entertaining”, but as the episodes went on the seemingly randomness and lack of structure to the show made more sense, and it became quite a good viewing experience actually. And as shallow as the concept seemed at first (already good looking and fit people, transformed into even better looking and fitter people), the show ended up exploring some meaningful themes which transcended fitness and fashion. And not to mention, the winner of the competition took home $100K (USD) in cold hard cash, so that was enough of a motivator to drive already pretty fit people to push themselves even harder, which resulted in some pretty incredible transformations. If you’re a fan of Survivor and/or Next Top Model, you’ll love Fit for Fashion as it mashes up your two interests into a binge-worthy show. Just search for:
‘Fit for Fashion’ on your Netflix app, and let the fun begin! **Note: At the moment the first 2 seasons (S1- 2014, and S2- 2016) are both available on Netflix Australia, Season 3 is currently in the pipelines. Warning: The above link, links to the Fit for Fashion Wikipedia page which contain spoilers
And now to round back to my pre-amble at the beginning of this post, how I didn’t care for Asian faces being or not being on my TV screen. Well, I thought that was the case until I was presented with shows like The Apartment and Fit for Fashion. I didn’t realise what it meant to me, until it was placed in front of me. The change from the usual norm was that the contestants were no longer the cutesy wallflowers, or the bespectacled doctor couple, or on the far end of the spectrum…. The peroxide blonde bitchy gangster Asian chicks. But on The Apartment season 3 at least, the Asian pairings were normal, just like you or me, just like your mates who you hang-out with! People who you can completely relate to and see yourself in. And we weren’t limited to just the one tokenistic team of Asians, but there were many teams of Asians, the majority in-fact! Granted, the reason for this is that both shows were produced by Malaysian production companies, but this is also the brilliant thing about Netflix, their ability to acquire and distribute international content which otherwise would never find its way onto mainstream Western programming. With the eclectic gathering of Asian teams, it increased the chances for you to see yourself reflected on TV, and a better representation/reflection to the rest of the world what it is really like to be Asian! There was a very normal, like very normal couple- Deankie & Tiara. There were a team of bloggers (which I could see myself reflected in them), there were two Asian models (once again, I could see myself reflected in them), there were two Asian surfie dudes (Um, maybe a bit less so here), and inevitably there were the 2 Asian gangster chicks (an MC and a DJ…..Yep, can also see myself reflected in them as well). What can I say? I’m your every-day gangsta model blogger who can’t swim! Funny enough, that summarises many Asians that I know. Haaha.
While in Fit for Fashion (season 1), it was refreshing to see that one of the fittest, the most humorous, and the most likeable contestants on the show was Asian! For a change, the Asian contestant was able to hold his own in the physical challenges; and for a change, in the modelling challenges we weren’t cringing and shielding our faces from the screen (except for ‘Duck face’…… you’ll just have to watch it to understand the reference). So it was all very refreshing indeed. So now that I’ve seen a more positive and accurate reflection of ourselves on TV, would I want to see more? Heck-yeah! Bring on more diversity to our flat panel screens!
And if you’re reading this and you’re thinking “This post is awfully racially bias!” Um, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that. But, there is always a but. But if you’re Australian, Aussie’s are also heavily represented in both The Apartment and Fit for Fashion! Which isn’t always the case in US or UK content, although we watch and are influenced so heavily by it. Thus being Aussie-Asian we were winning on all counts! We were cheering on 75% of the contestants, as literally 75% were either Aussie or Asian (the first time I can remember where US and British contestants were the minority groups). So I really hope this is a growing trend which will hang-around i.e. globally diverse media content, which is accessible to our world’s diverse audience.
So if you end up watching both The Apartment and Fit for Fashion, hit me up afterwards as I’m curious to hear what you thought, after seeing some different faces on your TV screens!