In case you weren't already aware, rapper, comedian, and actress Awkwafina (aka Nora Lum) has her own show on Comedy Central, and it's amazing. It's a sort of part biographical, part fictional, real feeling, totally hilarious account of her life. Well, not really her actual life now that she's super successful and famous and starring in absolutely fantastic films like Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell (the performance that won her a Golden Globe), and of course, Jumanji: The Next Level. The series follows Nora (Awkwafina), who's living with her Grandma (Lori Tan Chinn) and Dad (BD Wong) in a house in Queens, New York. That's all pretty much in the title. But what the title doesn't tell you is that it follows Nora, a late 20s Asian-American girl who drives for an Uber-type app, doesn't really know where her life is going, lives at home and smokes weed.
Nora speaks to a generation who doesn't quite have a place in this world; the people who can't follow the same path as the older generations, but don't have a clear-cut direction they're passionate about to follow. Everything for this generation (especially the creatives) feels like it lies in a weird in-flux middle ground. And that is exactly what Nora personifies in this show. The stories and characters all feel real; there are no manufactured generic comedy storylines like in every other sitcom or comedy show. Maybe that's owing to the fact that Awkwafina wrote it and based it on her life, and it shows; it feels genuine. It speaks to the experiences and struggles of a particular set of youthful types in the here and now. This is basically our generation's version of The Graduate. Even the way she speaks and dresses and interacts with everyone is real.
Awkwafina Speaks to a Generation in Real Ways
It feels real and accurate; there's one episode in which Nora's dad gets her a job as an assistant for a real estate agent…right when Nora has been up at nights grinding with her international team in an MMORPG. Of course, she doesn't bail on her team, because that's what's important to her; likewise, she knows a job is important to her dad and she needs a job to get her whip out of car jail, so she does what any sane person would do: pops a few Adderall and tries way too hard to please everyone in her life. Not that doing drugs is the go-to way to handle a situation (it's usually not), but trying to please everyone in your life at the expense of yourself and your health? Bingo! You've hit the quintessential "millenial struggle" that Awkwafina is Nora from Queens highlights all too well.
Did I mention that this show is beyond hilarious? Aside from that, Awkwafina shows us the way her life is (or maybe would have been if she hadn't gone viral) in terms of representation. Her neighborhood is mostly Chinese – and that's exactly who's shown, but not exclusively. Her friend Melanie (Chrissie Fit) is Latina, but it's not stereotyped, just like none of the storylines are about Nora dealing with Asian stereotypes. It's just about life as it is, we're diverse humans all trying to figure out this life thing. Does that mean we don't all deal with issues that stem from diversity? Not at all; there will always be specific issues we all have, but this is why the right representation matters so that we can tell the stories of how we experience them. And most experiences are universal, like your Chinese grandmas fighting the Korean grandmas over the single power outlet in the food court in Atlantic City.
Aside from that, Nora covers some pretty "taboo" subjects, like showing drug use without a PSA or it leading to a "morality tale" and overall depicting drug use as a major downfall. She also talks about masturbating, a topic usually reserved for men and raunchy female shock comics. But Nora normalizes it (well, as normal as an oversized novelty vibrator can be) and presents it as a part of life, and it's real and exactly the kind of representation we need from exactly who we need it from. With Lil Dicky (aka Dave Burd) having his own show Dave on FX and Hulu, just remember: Awkwafina did it first. All jokes aside though, her series is lovely and I hear great things about Dave as well. I'm sure it's next up on my "staying up all night to play video games and watch tv" schedule.