The Office is known for its hilarious one-liners and awkward situations, but recently the show has come under fire for its portrayal of Asian Americans (specifically Asian women).
Korean American actress Kat Ahn guest-starred as Amy in the episode A Benihana Christmas. During an interview with The Washington Post, Kat talked about how excited she was to be cast in the show until she found out she was "just there to be the joke."
The actress continued explaining the role of Asian Americans and Asians in the entertainment industry, saying, "You're told to shut up and be grateful. Actors have no power until they become a star."
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In the episode, Steve Carell plays a lovesick Michael Scott with Ed Helmes' character Andy Bernard who flirts with two Asian waitresses (one being Kat) at a Benihana restaurant (which Michael calls an "Asian Hooters"). The two bring the waitresses back to the office Christmas party, where Michael then marks one of the waitresses on the arm with a marker hinting that all Asians look alike.
Though Michael is supposed to be the butt of the joke in the episode, the racist acts have proven to be problematic.
Kat also spoke out about the episode on her personal TikTok account, where she went into more detail about the role of Asian Americans and Asians in the entertainment industry.
"I actually understood why BIPOC actors play racist roles. You know, sometimes, you gotta pay your rent. Sometimes you want to join the union. Sometimes you just don't want your agent to drop you," said Kat. "Also, this episode was before, you know, wokeness."
Things I Learned as an Asian American actress on the ##benihanaxmas episode of ##theoffice ##theofficeparody ##theofficetiktok ##theofficememes♬ original sound - Kat Ahn
She continued saying, "The storyline with myself and the other Asian American actress is that we were the 'uglier' version of the actresses at the Benihana. Also that all Asian people look alike, we're one big monolith, and we're just one big walking stereotype without any personality or individuality. Which is problematic."
Other actors from the show have spoken out about the issues of the episode. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who played Pam and Angela in the show both agreed that the Sharpie part in the episode made them both "cringe."
“I just don’t think this storyline would have been written today,” Angela said.
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Rylee is a U.S. news writer who previously worked for woman&home and My Imperfect Life covering lifestyle, celebrity, and fashion news. Before joining woman&home and My Imperfect Life, Rylee studied journalism at Hofstra University where she explored her interests in world politics and magazine writing. From there, she dabbled in freelance writing covering fashion and beauty e-commerce for outlets such as the TODAY show, American Spa Magazine, First for Women, and Woman’s World.
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