Jul 15, 2018
Kim's Convenience: Gay People are the Problem of the Week
It seems a bit retro: in each episode, the curmudgeonly, old-fashioned Mr. Kim (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) rams head-first into something about modern society that he doesn't understand. In the first episode, it's gay people.
He refuses to allow a gay pride poster to be placed in his shop window, because why do gay people have to advertise themselves with a parade? Koreans don't march down the street yelling "I'm Korean!" If they're gay, why can't they be quiet, respectful gays?
I started to cringe, having heard this complaint a dozen times, even from gay people. It is a standard homophobic misconception that gay pride is about proclaiming that you have gay sex rather than celebrating survival in a hostile world.
Accused of being homophobic, Mr. Kim backtracks by offering a 15% discount to gay people during Pride Week. Through the rest of the episode, he decides who warrants the discount and who doesn't.
He tells Boy Toy (Alexander Nunez) "You're not gay, you're just pretending." Boy Toy returns with a flamboyant friend as proof, but Mr. Kim merely asks him what his favorite movie was in college. Caddyshack. Straight.
But when a guy (Andy Yu) drops in to apply for a job, Mr. Kim offers him the discount. He protests that he is straight, but Mr. Kim wink-winks "Sometimes it takes awhile for the gay to come out."
He does give the discount to a drag queen after a conversation about "Why you dress like a woman?" She actually seems pleased by the question, and replies: "It feels comfortable. It feels like home."
The episode was not exactly offensive, at least not offensive enough to turn off, but it made me uncomfortable. It was like watching people talk about me behind my back.
No gay people appear, or are referenced, in any of the other episodes I sampled. Evidently the gays were the problem of the week, and the show moved on:
A kid runs wild in the convenience store, and the mother refuses to discipline him.
Mr. Kim gets a crush on the new female pastor, and insists on not charging her for anything.
After the first few episodes, the convenience store was relegated to the B plot, while the primary plot involved the problems and relationships of the two Kim children:
Janet (Andrea Bang), a photography student at OCAD University, struggles to achieve independence by moving out, getting a job, and refusing to "marry a nice Korean Christian boy." .
Jung (Simu Liu), who hasn't talked to his father in years, works at a car rental company, where he has a crush on his female boss. He doesn't appear to own a shirt.
The writers play up Jung's hunkiness deliberately, as a remedy to the countless sexless Asian characters in media.
Simu Liu has also appeared in the play Banana Boys, about the stereotypes Asian Canadian men face, such as "they are bananas (yellow on the outside, white on the inside)."
Other male characters include:
Kimchee (Andrew Phung, center ), a clownish slob, Jung's roommate, coworker, and bromantic life partner.
Gerald (Ben Beauchemin), their nerdish, self-depricating coworker, and eventually Janet's platonic roommate.
Terence (Michael Musi), another coworker at the car rental place, who Kimchee doesn't like.
Enrique (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll), a regular customer at the convenience store.
Alejandro (Mark Grazzini), who dates Jung's boss.
Roger (Kevin Vidal), who briefly dates Janet's friend.
Peter (Zach Smadu, left). I don't know who he plays. I just had trouble finding beefcake photos of the other actors.
I like the fact that the Canadian locale isn't closeted: this is definitely Toronto. The scene where a guy tries to rob the convenience store with a knife instead of a gun made me want to move there.
But I don't like the exclusion of gay people from the universe, after the first "gay problem" episode.