Growing up, Mai Thao didn’t see any reflections of herself in the media. Now a college senior, she’s working to change that by producing a new sitcom.
Chioma Uwagwu reports:
Media representation has the power to reflect and rewrite what we think about ourselves. Unfortunately many people of color never get to see themselves depicted positively or at all. College senior Mai Thao is using her capstone project to change that. She’s currently producing “Hmong House,” a sitcom about a Hmong family navigating shifts in culture around them.
“Growing up, I didn’t see reflections of myself in the media and that really affected the way that I saw myself,” she explained. “I don’t think that people realize if you don’t see yourself represented in that space it’s almost like you’re not represented in reality. Media is a space where we can project who we are and imagine who we can be, and when you’re not seeing yourself in that space it’s almost like you’re excluded from the society that you exist in.”
Although there have been increasing portrayals of Asians on screen, Thao said she wants to see more nuanced Asian American and Southeast Asian narratives. Thao hopes that “Hmong House” can be an alternative to the many painful narratives BIPOC youth are used to seeing about themselves.
“When you’re doing a story that’s about a non white narrative it becomes very serious,” said Thao, “and obviously that’s important because there are so many historical, social narratives that need to be told, and they are serious narratives. However, I do think that we need to have the space for mainstream and everyday types of stories.”
The majority of the show’s cast and crew are of Asian descent. Thao hopes that “Hmong House” will show children of immigrants that the arts is a viable career option for them. Thao is planning an initial screening of the sitcom to the public in December.
Photo Credit: Mai Thao
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