by Racialicious guest contributor Elton
One consequence of the sheer number of separate storylines in Heroes is that it feels as if the story is only being advanced a fraction of an inch each week. It’s becoming impossible to squeeze the entire cast into each episode. Last week, Hiro was absent for the first time, and this week was Claire’s first duck out of the spotlight. There’s nothing wrong with omitting a few main cast members from a few episodes now and then, but the show still feels disjointed. Yes, everything that happens in Heroes is connected (eventually). Last season, many of the Heroes were more or less united in a mission from Future Hiro: “Save the cheerleader, save the world”. And they did – in a spectacular battle at the end of Season 1, the “good guys” united to prevent “the bomb” from destroying New York City, and villains Linderman and Sylar were (apparently) killed by DL and Hiro, respectively.
One might hope that the Heroes, finally being in the same place at the same time, would at least Facebook friend each other. Alas, Season 2 began with a reshuffling of the deck and they each went their separate ways, even more distant than before. DL is dead, Niki, upon finally getting their son Micah back, has decided to leave him behind once again, Hiro and Ando are separated by hundreds of years, and Nathan and Peter have no idea where the other is.
Well, not everyone is dazed and confused – a few of the Heroes (Noah Bennet, Mohinder Suresh, Matt Parkman, Molly Walker, Nathan Petrelli, and The Haitian) have formed a sort of confederacy in order to investigate and destroy The Company, an organization apparently founded by a mysterious group of 12 people from the previous generation of Heroes in order to find and control people with special abilities. So perhaps that will be this season’s uniting mission: take down The Company.
But another consequence of there being so many separate stories to tell is that no single character’s story is being developed thoroughly. This may result in characters of color being presented as stereotypes. As David mentioned last week, now that Issac is dead, Maya and Alejandro are left to represent Latinos, and it doesn’t help that they’re on the run from the police and trying to enter America illegally.
Then there’s the issue of Hiro Nakamura. He seems to fit the nerdy foreigner stereotype to a tee. And now that he’s running around trying to serve his hero Takezo Kensei, who happens to be a white Englishman trying to find his fortune in feudal Japan by “fighting dirty” and exploiting the natives, the image of Hiro as a subservient and cowardly Asian male stereotype might be complete. He’s even letting Kensei take credit for his bravery in battle and steal the heart of his love interest, Yaeko!
But I think it’s possible to fight stereotypes even in Hiro’s situation. One response to the Asian nerd stereotype has been to counter with guys like the Yul Kwons and Daniel Dae Kims of the world, and show that Asian men can be tall, strong, and sexy, too. However, I think that Hiro represents a different way to subvert the stereotype. A lot of Asian-American guys identify more with Peter Parker than James Bond. It’s true that many of us are short, wear glasses, and love comic books. Instead of denying this fact, Hiro seems to be saying, “So what?” He’s always been the Hero who most completely embraces his powers, no matter what. While other Heroes are ashamed of their powers, or using them for ill gain, Hiro goes on and on about how important it is to protect the weak and fight for justice. Let’s not forget how he won the heart of the beautiful Texan waitress, Charlie. Tragically, she was killed by Sylar before they even kissed, but instead of despairing, Hiro became even more resolute in his mission. He represents a different kind of masculinity that transcends stereotypes in its own way, with intelligence, sensitivity, and conviction. While Hiro may geek out about his powers from time to time, he’s also courageous, determined, and loyal. He can also be a badass – he did stab Sylar, and at some point in the future he will speak fluent English, wear a soul patch and ponytail, and carry Kensei’s sword as his own. So let’s not worry too much about him.
The character I’m most excited about this season is Monica Dawson, the black New Orleanian girl. She’s a cousin of Micah, the boy genius and technopath, who is starting to discover a talent of her own. Being a native Southerner myself, I appreciate seeing the South on Heroes, even if it’s not completely accurate (especially the horrible, atrocious accents). The South has a long and racially charged history of poverty, hardship, and tragedy, from slavery to the Trail of Tears to the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. These issues are part of every American’s history, but Southerners have to live most directly with the consequences.
Monica lost nearly everything to Hurricane Katrina and is now living in a run-down house, working in a fast food restaurant and risking robbery to support her whole family, and bringing home old hamburgers for dinner. Those who look at Hiro on the surface and see an Asian stereotype might look at Monica and see a black stereotype. Yet, she still has so much hope. She’s damn proud to be the first member of her family to go to college, and even though her education has been put on hold due to the hurricane, she hasn’t given up and is always looking for a way to improve herself. I hope that she will find a way to use her new power of mimicry for good, but I believe a girl with an optimistic, hardworking attitude like hers will go far, regardless of whether she has super powers.
P.S. We have yet to see what Nana Dawson (Nichelle Nichols) can do, but I just wanted to say as a Star Trek fan that I have been really excited to see Nichelle and George Takei on the show, even if they didn’t interact. George and Nichelle are living legends, and an inspiration to civil rights activists everywhere. John Cho and Zoë Saldaña have some big shoes to fill.