Colour and the City

Yesterday evening, I watched (again) the Modeliser episode of Sex and the City. There’s a scene at the end where Miranda and Skipper bump into each other at a corner store. The owner is Asian.

For some reason, I actually watched the credits, where the role is listed as “Korean grocer”. There was only one grocer in the whole episode.

Now what is that all about, exactly? How does it help us to know he was Korean? What bearing does his heritage have on the story? And if it was so important, why not get an actor of Korean heritage?

My condolences, Ryohei Hoshi.

12 thoughts on “Colour and the City

  1. A Korean grocer is not an ordinary grocer. It has a history and a whole different meaning. At least from the time when I used to go to Korean grocers. I’ve never watched SATC so I don’t know how it was portrayed there.

  2. In one other episode of SATC, Aidan said to Carrie “You’re out of (milk or something). I’ll just run down to the Korean”. And it took me a moment to think, “Did he say that? What that line written and then spoken by an actor?!?” since I had never heard that one before. Seems that white folks sometimes call the corner store, if it’s run by Asians, “the Korean”. I was appalled. Prime time tv and all. But maybe I expect too much from t.v.

    I’m not sure if this is what gabriela63 means, that somehow Koreans occupy a specific place of grocery-ownership-servitude in the eyes of white people.

  3. *nudging gabriela63*

    I notice that type of credit a lot in the movies. “Asian guy,” “Asian bystander,” “Chinese patron in restaurant,” etc. Looked at Hoshi’s resume and I notice that he lists his part as simply “Grocer.”

    Maybe we here at RR should turn this around. Make people of color the norm, refer to race only if people are white. ;-D

  4. Well, the old question is do you have to be of a certain ethnicity to play that ethnicity? Of course I abhor using black/yellow/brown-face. I think that characters should retain the RACE of the character or non-whites should be given a chance to play non-race specific characters but Jews have always played Italians. And vice-versa. Giving the role to another East Asian actor who is not Korean isn’t racism. Although I don’t buy the “there are no Asian actors” excuse when casting, the fact that there are more Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Filipino-Americans in the United States than Koreans means that there are also more likely Chinese-, Japanese- and Filipino-American actors. Even Mongol used on non-Mongolian actor!

  5. Noted, gabriela, but Miranda was buying cat food and Skipper was buying Cap’n Crunch. Could’ve been any store.

    It sounds to me, as a non-American, that the Korean grocer is kind of the equivalent of the Pakistani corner store in the UK, the owners of which are not all Pakistani.

  6. I can only relate my own experience, but having lived in the NYC area for the majority of my life, I have to concur with Gabriela. “Corner store” in NYC connotes something different than “Korean grocery” and different than “Bodega.” People use the term to refer to grocery stores that ARE Korean-owned and tend to carry a particular variety of foods, produce, etc. in addition to basics that can be found at any corner store. Now, for the purposes of the SATC episode, it sounds like the items being bought could easily have been bought at any corner store, bodega, etc. But Korean groceries are typically seen as distinct from other small grocery shops – they are known for their variety of Asian foods, great produce and flowers, great salad bars, etc.

  7. Side note: I suspect this may be why Kris focused on the ethnicity of the actor in her response – not to throw red herrings, but because she’s a NYer, and is used to “Korean grocery” describing a particular type of store. Kris, am I on target?

  8. What’s a red herring?

    Most of the post was about casting and crediting, so I thought that I was on topic. So, if it means that I’m trying to start trouble, I think that accusation isn’t deserved.

    I do think that non-NYers may not get that Koreans are grocers who operate their stores 24-hours while most others close. Bodegas are run by Dominicans, usually. We often describe various convenience stores by who runs them because they have different attributes and there are so many in most residential neighborhoods. Immigrant-run convenience stores are ubiquitous here because of limited job opportunities for immigrants as well as established trade associations and support networks for such businesses.

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