I won’t lie, it’s surreal to be sitting here writing about television, with the events that have unfolded in my country since this past Tuesday. If I were to be hypercritical I’d say it’s frivolous, people are being assaulted physically and verbally in the streets for the exact differences that make me love being American so much. And yet here I sit, talking about The Librarians.
You have to understand, I truly believe what we say when we criticize or compliment media matters. I co-founded genretvforall.com because I believe that representation matters, I joined this blog as a contributor because I want to use my voice to elevate the shows that deserve it, and call out those that fail.
Large swaths of America are isolated. As a culture we tend to exist in homogenous self-selected bubbles. One of the only ways some Americans see people of different races, sexualities, genders, and values than theirs is through media, and of forms of media, the one I believe has the most power is television, as it comes into our homes and joins us in our living rooms, a familiar glowing friend.
The best way to change minds and hearts is familiarity, and TV characters who we spend time with weekly breed that familiarity. Which brings me back to the point of this post, The Librarians.
The Librarians is a limited run winter series entering its third season on TNT this month. Based on a series of films about The Librarian (Noah Wyle) it focuses on a group of people who are charged with keeping safe the world’s mystical objects and knowledge in a sprawling library. The group, Librarians, Flynn (Wyle), Cassandra (Lindy Booth), Jacob (Christian Kane), and Ezekiel (John Kim) alongside a Guardian (the inimitable Rebecca Romijn) travel the world fighting against supernatural threats and ensuring those mystical artifacts remain safe. The show is whimsical, and educational. It has a balance of camp and hopeful heroism that’s the perfect escape, especially in such dark times.
This show has managed to do what I thought was impossible, it aired a Magical Indian episode that was both timely and inoffensive even focusing on Native identified cast member Kane. In another episode in a sequence meant to show people around the world the casting was diverse, as were the activities people were shown engaging in, including a peaceful protest. I’m not a huge fan of Flynn, he’s too over the top, and the show’s refusal to go all in on Cassandra’s implied queerness is frustrating to say the least, especially when her appeal to other women is used so well to turn literary tropes on their heads, but overall it’s strengths easily outweigh it’s weaknesses.
Without a doubt, the show’s greatest strength is Ezekiel Jones. Of all racial groups, one of the most underrepresented are Asians. And when Asian characters are shown, they’re almost always ninjas, or nerds, without depth or nuance. Supernatural’s Kevin Tran began as a stereotype, even Gilmore Girls’ beloved Lane Kim only gets to exist alongside her stereotypical Dragon Mother, but then, like a breath of fresh air, we get Ezekiel Jones.
Jones, played by Korean-Australian actor and all around cutie John Kim doesn’t speak in broken english, just a sexy Aussie accent, he has zero fighting skills, martial arts or otherwise, no interest in the Ivy League, and his only nerdy activity is a pretty mainstream love of video games. Instead he’s chosen to use his immense intellect, something possessed by all the Librarians, as an international thief. He runs at the first sign of violence, his first instinct is to look out for number one, he loathes the concept of hard work, but at the same time he’s great with children, and his big heart consistently wins out over his inclinations as a self-serving layabout to bail out his fellow Librarians whenever he’s needed.
Ezekiel Jones, if he fits any archetype, is the scoundrel with the heart of gold, he’s the Han Solo, the Dean Winchester, he’s a role I’ve never been blessed to see played by an Asian actor, and Kim makes him a delight to watch as stereotypes are completely sidestepped and instead a completely fleshed out and lovable character comes to life on our screens.
I’d recommend The Librarians to anyone looking for an upbeat escapist urban fantasy to get lost in, and I’d recommend Ezekiel Jones to anyone looking for an Asian character existing beyond stereotypes. Just back off him if you’re looking for a fictional boyfriend, I called dibs.
The Librarians returns November 20th for Season 3 on TNT in the US. The first two seasons are available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
About the Author: Jay Jaqobis is sometimes Jessi Bow Spence and frequently just Jessi but also sometimes Jay and will respond to any of the above, and also “Hey, you with the face.” Ze lives in the midwest with a cis dude spouse and the world’s greatest dog and does a mean impression of a housewife while battling agoraphobia and general bouts of ennui. Ze cofounded GenreTVForAll and wrote a chapter on Teenage Girls with Superpowers for the Geekiary’s e-book. Ze likes vegan food, pictures of shih tzus, and long naps. You can find zir on twitter and instagram.