October 07, 2010

Cousins in Hawaii Five-0 remake

OMG, they did it again. In the third episode of the new Hawaii Five-0, they gave Chin Ho and Kono another cousin. This time, he's Samoan.

To recap, Chin Ho Kelly is Chinese with an Irish name. Kono Kalakaua is Native Hawaiian. They say they're cousins. Both are played by Korean American actors.

Kono mentioned another cousin in Kyoto, Japan. This could be a cousin only on Kono's side of the family. And the cousin could be Hawaiian, Chinese, or another ethnicity. But I presume the cousin is Japanese. Not many foreigners move to Japan to get married.

And now we have a fourth cousin, a Samoan. This time we learn he and Chin Ho grew up together. I think both Chin Ho and Kono called him "family." Presumably he's cousins with both cousins.

Add the fact that McGarrett speaks Chinese and Chin Ho speaks Hawaiian, and you have to ask: What the heck's going on here? Asians of different ethnicities aren't interchangeable, people. They aren't members of one big happy Pan-Asian family.

This is becoming ridiculous. It's ruining whatever credit Hawaii Five-0 gets for using minority actors. I thought I was kidding when I hinted that Chin Ho and Kono might have Vietnamese, Thai, or Filipino cousins. Apparently it's just a matter of time till these cousins show up.

The only saving grace was that they cast a Samoan to play the Samoan cousin. He's the first of the cousins to be played by someone of the right ethnicity. Well, whoopee. In 2010, that's not much of an achievement.

For more on the subject, see Asians in Hawaii Five-0 remake and Review of Hawaii Five-0 remake.

P.S. In this episode Kono (Grace Park) appears in a bikini and a short serving-girl dress. I'm sticking with my claim that she's there mainly as eye candy, not as a serious effort to diversify the cast by race and gender.


Luci said...

I haven't seen the episode, but "cousin" might mean second cousin or second cousin twice removed or something like that, especially in Polynesian cultures (such as Hawaiians' and Samoans')where "family" is a much wider and more inclusive concept than Westerners are used to, and people are often still quite close to distant relatives.

And Hawaii is extremely mixed, so an extended family including Chinese, Hawaiians and Samoans is not all that implausible (but of course all that mixture doesn't eliminate tensions between the different groups, or Native Hawaiians' position at the bottom of Hawaiian society...so yeah, people in Hawaii are most definitely not "one big happy family").

My biggest problem is still with the casting. Specifically, that of Grace Park as a Native Hawaiian.

Rob said...

Don't forget the unnamed (Japanese?) cousin who got married in Kyoto.

Sure, Hawaii is extremely mixed, but that applies more to communities than to individual families. I'm not sure individual families have different ethnicities that often.

We're talking about four different cultures here: two Asian and two Pacific Islander. To give one example, there's a lot of historic enmity between the Chinese and Japanese. It's not as though these cultures naturally intermingle because they're both Asian.

Yes, the characters could've been talking about distant cousins or even honorary "cousins," but they didn't say that. Instead they talked about being "family" and growing up together. That suggests my interpretation is the correct one.

Even if you're right, the language is misleading and confusing. If you have to stop and think about it, it's bad writing. The show should explain what it means or drop the "cousin" gimmick.

P.S. Yes, having Koreans play Chinese and Hawaiian characters is still a big problem.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see Update on Hawaii Five-0's Cousins.

Nina T. said...

You might want to check this article out: