Netflix Review: Korean Diaspora That Reminds Of Desi Parenting
With the lockdown taking forever to last, every passing week, the only semblance of normalcy that we seem to have inherited from the pre-Covid-19 world is our urge to consume Netflix. However, on any regular weekend, I would not have expected to find myself relating to a young-adult sitcom on the Korean diaspora, but Kim’s Convenience is not just that.
Maybe it is the monotony of its four seasons that allows you to get comfortable with the characters so soon that you start seeing your own selves in them or the fact that the Kims are like any other Pakistani family; scream on an everyday basis, get overbearing for each other, but later come around because you have the best interests at heart.
Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian sitcom about a Korean family, which chronicles the day-to-day lives of a family of four; Mr and Mrs Kim, their daughter, Janet, and their son, Jung. They own a convenience store in Toronto. While the burden of work in the store is shared by both Mr and Mrs Kim, the more traditionally ‘feminine’ house chores are still taken care of by the wife.
The old couple is energetic, eager, and tries to keep their spark of love alive by small acts of intimacy and rewarding each other. And while seeing these tiny moments of bliss really revives one’s hope for a long term partnership, they also have days that are difficult for them to reconcile from, where challenges of a monogamous companionship are highlighted upon, as a raw and unpleasant reality which we’ve often seen around us growing up. The couple thus is an accurate of representation of both the highs and the lows of a typical desi marriage, which is what makes is so relatable.
Janet, the daughter, is passionate about becoming a photographer, and we all know the ordeal that comes with pursuing arts in an Asian household. As a result, she is always overcompensating and overachieving, in an attempt to be seen and heard by a father who think all she does is point a camera at something and press a button, and by a mother for whom her son who has left the house is more important. Yes, typically, South Asian, but also, Korean.
The sexism and misogyny of the men of the show doesn’t fail at any point, and is a true representation of any culture that has anything to do with Asia. However, the show does not take them to be a given. It does not just stop at depicting sexism as something that is just there in Asian cultures like most mainstream South Asian content does. Rather, it goes a step further by not only showing how it can introduce tensions into familial bonds, but also how it can be countered.
Furthermore, in terms of representation, the show also educates white audiences about how the agency of marginalised communities works against the tag of migrants. In doing so it breaks down the problematic idea of migrants as homogeneous groups. The Kims being misunderstood for all the Chinese and Japanese stereotypes, is also the Pakistanis being called Arabs, as soon as they step foot into a tourist country.
The everyday issues of a generational gap between the parents and their children is also explored in a way that always gives preference to the filial piety. Simply put, much of the everyday conflict in the family revolves around Mr and Mrs Kim struggling to accept Janet and Jung’s lives as individuals, but in the same breath, demanding respect despite their own, often glaring, shortcomings. This is something that is deeply embedded in Pakistani cultures too, where elders of the family prioritize respect at all costs.
Mr and Mrs Kim might be nice, but they are just the right amounts of arrogant that you need to make them human enough to digest. Overall, Kim’s Convenience is light and fun, family friendly and safe to watch in Ramzan content. I would 6/10 recommend.
The author is a multimedia journalist and covers pop-culture, gender and society in her stories.