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May 8, 2020

12 Reasons Why "Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens" Is 100% Worth Watching

You don't wanna end up like Esther Wong...

Y'all know Awkwafina — the American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and rapper who became the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe in any lead actress film category. Well, she's got her own show:

Comedy Central

No, it's not on tonight. Yes, the show premiered in January, and Season 1 is done airing. But you can find all 10 episodes streaming on Comedy Central!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens (or Nora from Queens for short) follows Nora, a perpetually jobless 27-year-old who lives at home with her dad and grandma as she tries to figure out life.

Whether you haven't had the time or have been living under a rock, I'm here to let you know that it's approximately 1,000% worth watching — here's why (warning, some light spoilers ahead!):

1. The first season currently holds Comedy Central's highest-rated premiere since 2017 and saw the network's most socially active premiere since 2016.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

The real question here is why shouldn't you watch Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens?

2. Not to mention, Nora's got some dope relatives and friends. The show has a strong Asian-led cast, and the characters are a far cry from the usual Asian stereotypes.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

That's right, not all Asian parents are tiger moms and dads. Some are even 4/20 friendly. (But not yours, Edmund, sorry.)

3. For starters, her dad Wally is played by BD Wong, her grandma by Lori Tan Chinn, and her cousin Edmund by Bowen Yang.

4. Then you've got Ming-Na Wen playing her Aunt Sandra.

@norafromqueens / Via instagram.com

Fun Fact: Ming-Na voiced Mulan in the animated Disney movie, and BD Wong voiced Shang! A lil' reunion of sorts.

5. And her chill friend Doug, aka rapper and actor Dumbfoundead:

Getty Images, @dumbfoundead / Via instagram.com

Her other friends are portrayed by Chrissie Fit and Jaboukie Young-White.

On the career front, Deborah S. Craig (you may know her from William Finn's Tony Award–winning musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) plays Nora's boss, Nancy. And Celia Au plays Nora's eager assistant Grace.

You'll also catch glimpses of Laverne Cox, Natasha Lyonne, and Michelle Buteau.

6. In one episode, Grandma gives us the rundown of how she and Nora's grandfather got together — K-drama style. So we get a 20-minute K-drama starring Young Grandma (Jamie Chung), Garbage Boy (Simu Liu), and Doc Hottie (Harry Shum Jr.).

Comedy Central

This episode, called "Grandma & Chill," even addresses why Grandma came to the United States: China's Cultural Revolution.

7. Also important: The show addresses cultural issues and stereotypes faced by Asian Americans.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

But in clever and funny ways, so it's still an easy watch.

8. For instance, the show portrays Asian masculinity as a way to fight the stereotypical feminization of Asian males.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com, Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

Obviously, this whole K-drama episode is a thirst trap. But, more deeply, executive producer Teresa Hsiao explained to EW that Garbage Boy and Doc Hottie were very intentional choices:

"Basically, we wanted to have these two studs come on board and again, really showcase like, 'Hey, Asian men are super hot and they are incredible and they never ever get a chance to show this side of them on television.' They're usually just like the nerdy doctor or whatever. And so we really wanted to showcase this hot Asian masculinity."

(Plus, Jennifer Esposito plays Brenda, Wally's love interest, subverting the usual White male/Asian female couple.)

9. It also deconstructs the view of Asian (American) groups as monolithic — esp when Grandma starts an "inter-Asian race war," in Nora's words.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

Right off the bat, Asians are not a monolith; there are East Asians, Southeast Asians, and South Asians — and even then, they break down into individual ethnic groups. And guess what, colorism and prejudice and discrimination exist between them too.

Grandma gives us a lighthearted look into this when she and her Chinese friends get into a fight with a group of equally old Korean women who snag the only table with an outlet. The fight escalates when Grandma's iPad dies and her group can't finish watching their subtitled K-drama. When Nora sees Grandma later that night, she reminds her, "You know I'm half-Korean, right?"

10. Plus, the show steps away from the stereotypical Asian American household to show accepting and supportive Asian American families.

Comedy Central

Wally, Nora's widowed dad, calls her "princess" and, though frustrated that she's still jobless at 27, is compassionate toward and supportive of her. He apologizes when he snaps at her on his wedding anniversary, explaining he just misses "her" a lot, and Nora hugs him in return.

And, if ya haven't caught on yet, Grandma is also loud, vulgar (in a lovable way), and proud of Nora no matter what. She's always there to remind Nora that she loves her and to help guide her along the way. Then you've got Aunt Sandra, who lives on a commune with her son. She sometimes visits and gets stoned with Nora.

11. But Nora from Queens doesn't ignore the Tiger parent, either. Nora's cousin, Edmund, foils her as an overachieving Stanford grad who won't tell his parents he's back in town (living alone in a multi-million dollar penthouse) because he feels like a failure.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

So he hangs out with Nora, Wally, and Grandma instead. Obviously, Nora's family isn't supposed to represent every Asian American family out there. It's supposed to represent one of many, because that's the point; they're not all the same.

12. By the end, the show explores the tension of the Asian American identity (that is, to be Asian and American) when Nora goes to China by herself.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

Lonely, Nora goes to experience a real Chinese dinner but ends up eating KFC instead. She then meets a group of partying ex-pats, realizing that she relates to them more than the Chinese locals. In an interview with Deadline, Hsiao revealed the storyline was based off of Awkwafina's experiences abroad in Beijing:

"She talked about this idea of being Asian American — it’s hard to place yourself in a specific area. In America, you’re not considered American. Obviously, we’re seeing that a lot now which is really sad. In Asia, you’re not considered Asian because you can’t speak the language, so you’re caught in this limbo. We thought it was interesting.

"We did it on purpose to show what it’s like when Asian Americans go back to Asia. That’s not something a lot of people see or understand until you are in that situation. When we go back to Asia, people recognize us as outsiders. Many Americans look at Asians as all the same because they can’t tell where we’re from. There’s this feeling of alienation when you’re American in Asia even though you look the same as everyone else."

Of course, this is all warmly and hilariously portrayed between Nora's random gigs, queefs, and a whole lotta weed.

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

So if you haven't already, (get ready to laugh and) watch Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens on Comedy Central!

Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

It's also available for $1.99+ per episode on YouTube or Google Play.

Seriously, it's already been renewed for a second season!

Check out how BuzzFeed is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

Victoria Reyes / BuzzFeed

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