present /ˈprez(ə)nt/, adj.

The moment Wonder Woman was officially in production and no longer just another superhero title in the rumor mill, people all over the Internet began praising the film, its director, and its cast for finally making a female superhero movie. At long last, women would be able to see a character more similar to themselves on the big screen.

The issue of representation — of the LGBTQ+ community, of people with disabilities, of minority groups — onscreen is being discussed more widely with each passing day. The movement gathers a greater number of voices as time passes, with actors, actresses, and Buzzfeed video producers alike becoming increasingly vocal about this topic.

Most recently, Wong Fu Productions released a video called “Asian Bachelorette,” in response to the lack of Asian/Asian American representation in The Bachelorette’s 13 seasons thus far. To Wong Fu’s recollection, there were only ever “like three” male Asian/Asian American contestants total, and almost all of them were eliminated in the first round.

In the “Asian Bachelorette,” it was the exact opposite. All but one of the contestants came from an Asian background, and the “token” white contestant has just one memorable line, “Does anyone even know that I’m here?”

I’ve been following Wong Fu for almost a decade at this point, but this was truly the first time I saw one of their videos go viral. Since “Asian Bachelorette” released just five days ago, the video has appeared on my Facebook and Twitter feeds more than ten times. Every time I checked to see whose engagements on Facebook put it onto my timeline, I was always pleasantly surprised.

Many times, it was the action of some random, Asian American friend who I’d never seen watching or sharing Wong Fu’s content or the video post from a small third party publisher that ended up appearing on my Facebook. These people liked the video, tagged their friends in the comments, and posted it on their own walls, perhaps simply because it was funny — but potentially also because there was something about the humor and the situation that resonated with them.

Wong Fu’s tongue-in-cheek video about Asian American representation in the media allowed them to reach an audience of individuals that stretched far beyond their normal audience (including people like Eugene Lee Yang).

There are a million and one reasons that have been cited and examples that have been referenced to argue for the importance and necessity of representation in the media. Wong Fu’s widely-shared, -discussed, and -watched video is but one of the many examples of how positive representation in the media can bring people together and harbor within them a sense of pride for their culture and background.

Another individual who I believe can also instill a similar positive change is the comedian Ali Wong.

Who? The raunchy, pregnant woman with vulgar humor?

Yes, her.

Ali Wong Closeup
Photo Courtesy of Netflix

When most people talk about Ali Wong, they remember the way her black and white striped dress tightly hugged her seven-and-a-half-month baby bump as she jumped onstage in her Netflix Comedy Special, Baby Cobra.

The New Yorker focuses on Ali’s unique position as a female comedian not only killing the game, but doing it while she’s pregnant. In Ali’s own words, female comics don’t get pregnant. Author Ariel Levy adds, “What is radical about Wong is that her discussion of quotidian domesticity is interwoven with commentary on what may be the last taboo of female sexuality: women are animals.”

When the NPR segment Fresh Air discussed Ali Wong, they noted how she used her experiences as a wife and a mother to come up with bits in her stand-up.

Less discussed in these conversations is Ali’s raunchy, vulgar humor. Levy writes in The New Yorker, “It is not unusual for a female comedian to talk about her body. It is a little less conventional for her to talk about what comes out of it.”

In other words, women are sexualized and accepted as sexual creatures. But for a woman — an Asian American woman who is also a wife and a mother to a daughter and pregnant with her second child — to turn her own sexuality onto its head and bask in it, is simply unheard of.

Ali Wong’s presence in today’s media landscape is not just a face to add to the tally of notable Asian Americans in the media, nor just another voice speaking out in the fight for representation of minority groups as individuals and not mere stereotypes.

Ali Wong Pregnant
Photo Courtesy of Netflix

She also serves as a subversion of female and Asian American female stereotypes. Ali Wong is a woman who makes lewd jokes about her body, taking ownership of the things she’s chosen to do with it, and refusing to be ashamed by others. She boldly tells women about how she “trapped her husband’s ass” and encourages them to find a man who is more than willing to “lick their pussy.”

While Ali’s humor might be a bit too much for some to swallow, it is still crucial to recognize the many stereotypes she is challenging for Asian American women in the generations that follow hers.

When I went to watch her show this past weekend in San Francisco, she mentioned that she would often get asked, what her mother thought of her stand up shows. While it could very much be a genuine question, there is context to unpack — which Ali does all too willingly.

This person likely just wants to know what my conservative Asian parents think about my butthole licking jokes, she elaborates.

Given the way Ali talks about her mom throughout the show, about how she can tell her mom that the dynamic of her relationship with her Harvard MBA husband is different from her mom’s relationship with her father, I’m confident that Ali’s parents now likely don’t think too much of Ali’s jokes. If there was truly any strife between Ali and her parents, there would certainly be far fewer (or even no) jokes about this familial relationship in her stand up routines.

Ali’s success as a nonconventional Asian American comic — who nonetheless still follows some traditional wants of Asian/Asian American families by being a wife to a stereotypically attractive Asian American husband with an MBA from Harvard, and a mother to a young daughter with a second child on the way — paves the way for other young Asian American women to deviate from their expected paths and to own their bodies in their own rights.

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