Three Woos! for Shelby Woo

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am

When I was little, like in elementary school, I was always teased about my name. Mostly because I was the first and only black Shelbi that any of my classmates had ever seen, but also because I shared my name with a television character by the name of Shelby Woo. Her television show aired on Nickelodeon, starting in 1996 for a short period of two years. She was a sort of Nancy Drew of my day, with a passion for solving crimes. She was a high school girl, maybe 16 years old, and she was Asian. I am not certain if watching her show as a child was one of the first times I had ever realized that there was more to race than just black and white, but to me, Shelby was more of a girl who shared my name than an Asian girl who shared my name.

I loved her television show, because she made all “Shelbys” look good. She was smart and determined and very independent, often going against her grandfather’s wishes to solve crimes and help people who were in need. She had spunk, and a personality much different from the media generally portrays Asian Americans. Her grandfather (played by Pat Mortia of The Karate Kid), however, had more of a meek and humbling spirit that is more common in the media. However, it had not dawned on me that her role on the show was so much different from other Asian roles of that same decade. I can remember no references to karate chopping or geisha mimicking. Her and her grandfather’s english was perfect, with still some hint of their Asian accent. Shelby was your typical, all-American super sleuth.

After learning of all the different stereotypical portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans in the media, I was so happy to be able to remember a time where we weren’t so ignorant and racist. So three Woos! to Nickelodeon and Shelby Woo for making such an imprint in the media with race by not dwelling so much on it.


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