by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie
I finally caught a rerun of The Cho Show, Margaret Cho’s VH1 reality sitcom-y show.
And I really enjoyed it. Not because I like Cho’s comedy. Not because she’s a woman of color on TV (one more for the team!). But because I can identify with her.
How can a twenty-something heterosexual Iranian-American identify with a thirty-something bisexual Korean-American? We’re both misfits.
Cho’s first episode revolves around her struggle with accepting an award from the KoreAm magazine for the Korean of the Year. She says herself that she’s felt a very cool reception from Koreans in the U.S. and feels at odds with the community because of past experiences. “They want me to perform, and they’re gonna hate me. I don’t play golf, and I’m not a good Korean that way,” Cho tells her parents about her nervousness regarding the award. She states that her biggest fear is “bombing in front of a room full of Koreans,” highlighting perhaps a desire to be accepted by her community for who she is at the same time that she expresses her anger over the lack of acceptance they’ve given her in the past.
Her parents buy her a traditional Korean outfit for a baby boy, dropping major hints at her having children. They pressure Cho by saying that “all their friends” have children and that “you have to have kids” to “become a complete person.” Ouch! They also caution her over her choice of an body-paint “dress” she considers wearing to the award show: “What my friends are going to tell us is how can you allow her to do, you know, something like that,” her father says, as if their reservations about her dress revolve around what their friends (i.e., the community) will think.
Cho is a misfit: she doesn’t look or act like a Korean woman “should,” evidenced by her line of work, her sexuality, her body art, etc. She and her entourage are all made up of those who don’t fit into “mainstream” definitions of “normal”: gay men, an assistant who is only 3’10” and moonlights as a burlesque performer, and plenty of guest stars of all colors, sizes, and shapes.
I can identify with Cho’s ambivalence towards the Korean community because I feel ambivalent about my belonging to my own ethnic and religious communities. I can identify with Cho’s irritation at hints about grandchildren because I’m sick of people hinting that I should get married (different, but still in the “domestic” realm). I can identify with Cho and her ragtag bunch of friends because, despite the fact that they don’t often get “mainstream” acceptance, they live their lives and love each other like everybody else. And they’re funny as hell.
Here’s a clip from the first episode. The Cho Show airs on Thursdays on VH1 at 11 pm EST.