Subtle Asian Traits goes from Facebook group to TV. But not everyone is happy about it.

·3 min read

Known for referential humor, insider memes, endless K-pop posts and banh mi recipes, the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits has become an online hub for celebrating Asian heritage.

Now, production company Jumpcut is developing a namesake television series inspired by the group, which has about 2 million members.

Though the page has become a source for cultural pride and many are excited about the show, the announcement has stirred up some controversy.

Jumpcut, which launched earlier this year, sources projects through an algorithm that searches for stories and storytellers with high online engagement.

Winnie Kemp, head of content development at the company, said the series tackles the experiences of many first-generation Asian Americans who might grapple with identity.

"The first time I was surrounded by other Asians was in college, and it was such a culture shock," Kemp, who is Taiwanese American, said. "Many of us wonder, 'Are we Asian enough?' and, 'What does it mean to be Asian?'"

Winnie Kemp, head of development at Jumpcut. (Courtesy Jumpcut)
Winnie Kemp, head of development at Jumpcut. (Courtesy Jumpcut)

Within the Facebook group, some expressed their excitement for the show as a win for Asian representation on TV.

“I’m truly excited that we Asians have had another chance at getting more exposure in the West,” Theresa Trinidad, a member of Subtle Asian Traits, said.

With comedies like “Kim’s Convenience” and “Fresh Off the Boat” recently ending, Trinidad, 38, said she sees the show as a perfect opportunity to fill the void those groundbreaking series left, while also showing the diversity of Asia.

“It’s disheartening to see something representative of Asian culture being dismissed,” she said. “That being said, SAT is such a funny, diverse group, and I’m interested to see how they address certain issues. Issues like Asian diaspora, racism against Asians and racism within the Asian culture.”

Though many people are excited, some say they aren’t as thrilled about the show’s development, as the Facebook group has faced scrutiny for only posting about certain facets of Asian culture.

Danielle Villaluna, 23, a Filipino American who works in public relations in New York, is a member of the group and said she feels its posts often depict stereotypes of Asian identity.

“There can be endless photos of boba,” Villaluna said.

Villaluna follows multiple other pages within the Subtle Asian Traits branch. Subtle Asian Mental Health, for instance, is a space where Asians can share their experiences with mental health issues and destigmatize pursuing help.

Villaluna said she thinks exploring the perception of mental health in the Asian community would be an interesting topic for the show.

“That’s a real, genuine Asian American topic worth talking about — not just our love for boba,” she said.

One member of Subtle Asian Traits wrote in a post that a different group called Subtle Curry Traits was created after South Asian members felt excluded. Some group members said they are concerned about potential exclusion of South Asians in the show.

Yeji Chung, 20, said she has noticed a consistent lack of South Asian content within the page.

While Chung, a Korean American college student, finds most of the content relatable and funny, she said the group might perpetuate the idea that East Asians represent Asia as a whole.

“Asia is such a large area that it can be difficult for some Asians to feel truly included in the content posted in the group,” she said.

However, Kemp said the goal of the series is to explore all Asian identities.

“The characters come from a variety of ethnicities, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds and gender identities,” Kemp said.

The admins of Subtle Asian Traits will additionally serve as a resource to the writers to maintain the voice of the group.

“The writers were very thoughtful about maximizing the opportunity to represent as many intersectionalities as possible in an organic and nuanced way,” Kemp said.

The pilot script is currently in revision. Once completed, the show will be taken to buyers.

Kemp hopes the series will give Asians of all backgrounds the opportunity to feel connected, as she said she feels the Facebook group has done.

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