I have never given the thought about Asian representation in the media until now that we’ve lost you.
When I was growing up in Thailand before we have cable, obviously people on TV look like me whether it’s local Thai TV or Chinese drama. We also had “western shows” of people who don’t look like me at all but that has never stopped me from looking up to Wonder Woman, the A-Team, or Macguyver. My imagination allows me to just nerd out with whatever I feel the connection with, especially to Macguyver because I too was a science nerd. My math ineptitude stopped me from pursuing STEM studies, but I friggin’ LOVE science. But back then none of my friends had my passion, so I kept it to myself.
Then came my time in the US. Sometime in college, my friends nurtured my geeky passion, so I knew I wasn’t alone. And then the dot com boom hit and suddenly, it is okay to be a nerd out in the world. But still, I had my reservations especially with the stereotype of weird, nerdy Asians (see: Sixteen Candles) in the back of my mind.
Having studied communications in college, of course representation came up. But again, I didn’t see why it matters. As an immigrant who sees America as “white”, white people on TV is practically normal to me at the time.
As a foreigner, I didn’t feel that the people on the American screen have to look like me because in my mind, America is full of white people. (And that’s how we see y’all from across the Pacific, by the way.) I grew up where people on TV look like me, but I never thought of it in a sense of being a person of color growing up in a place where NOBODY looks like you on TV.
Seriously. Never thought of it like that until right this moment. That’s how ignorant I had been.
Then you turned up on Mythbusters one day, unapologetically geeking out about your engineering and practical effect crafts AND your passion for nerdy things.
Holy smokes, look at my “brother” up there on that screen! He’s nerding out with other (white) nerds, and nobody makes fun of him for being an Asian nerd!
*WE* can do that? Does this give me the license to go full nerd?
Yes, yes it does!
I never thought representation means THAT much until this very moment, now that I reflected on how seeing you on TV has changed how I feel about myself. Seeing you on TV makes me feel okay to be an Asian nerd. More than that, it made me PROUD to be an Asian nerd.
I could only imagine how it changes the views of young Asian Americans everywhere watching you on that show.
I only met you once back at the first Comikaze, now known as LA Comic Con. We first were drawn to the life-sized Wall-E until I realized who was at the helm. Screw Wall-E. I’m here for Grant! I came over to ask you for a picture. I did get to tell you that I wouldn’t be standing here as the Hulk Bunny if it wasn’t for you being on Mythbusters.
I’m sure Asian folks come up to you all the time to tell you that. You really did make a difference in our lives.
Representation does matter. And you did a hell of a job representing for the rest of us.