If you're reading this, and you haven't noticed, I've tried making this post bling af in honor of this Netflix reality series' release. I juxtaposed this post's feature image with part of the smaller Bling Empire cover image and the larger one using Photoshop to turn the final image into my own ostentatious artwork. I even called myself a Netflix connoisseur. The theme of this post should simply reek of bling, but will it? And more importantly, does Bling Empire effuse the bling it so highlights in its mere title?
So many questions yet so little time to do anything let alone Netflix. It's already past the halfway point of January 2021, and I still find myself saying "happy new year" to random people I interact with. Yet, I had been reading about something new and representative of Asians that would come out on Netflix this January 15th. All the hype I was focused on was revolving around Bling Empire. Reportedly a Selling Sunset meets Crazy Rich Asians according to the Oprah Magazine. So me being the Netflix connoisseur that I'm not, and being slightly enthusiastic slash apprehensive as an Asian American about a major mainstream platform like Netflix working with a predominantly Asian cast, I decided to add Bling Empire to my list and watched the first episode this past week.
First impressions of Bling Empire
The show is set in Los Angeles, and it was definitely a real-life version of Crazy Rich Asians without a doubt. Within the first ten minutes, you get a brief introduction to each member of the cast (all of whom are indeed really rich). Out of the whole cast, I found Kane Lim and Anna Shay most memorable. Kane is super energetic, and moved to LA from Singapore making a smooth mil by age 20. Anna is a 60 year-old half-Japanese and half-Russian heiress. There was also a guy called Kevin Kreider who is a 37 year-old model. I'm sure some Asian viewers will be pretty stoked that an Asian male model was included in the cast as there have been many issues raised by the Asian community about the lack of favorable Asian males represented in Hollywood.
So what's the vibe?
The way things are cut and shot in Bling Empire is interesting. Transitions went as expected for a reality series with quick storylines and character development was created through hearing what each cast member had to say about what was happening throughout the episode's dialogues. What stood out was the delivery of scenes. It wasn't so much about the handheld camera style shots of other reality series such as Jersey Shore, but an elixir of steady semi-cinematic high-definition portrayals of what was happening at any given moment. I still haven't determined how I feel about such filming, but it was definitely unique.
On the one hand, I sometimes felt like I wasn't watching a cheesy reality show, but at other times it made interactions between cast members appear feigned. Okay, I understand, it can all be staged and what not, but when I'm vegging out to reality shows, I analogously envision a magic trick being performed. I know the trick doesn't exist in my reality, but I need to be convinced that it's real when it's being performed.
Thoughts on Bling Empire's impact on Asian representation in Hollywood
It's an effort. No one is going to make blockbuster moves overnight, but things will progress as they do, and with something like Bling Empire, a second season would validate yet another step forward. In my honest opinion, I think that the general audience and the average targeted viewers that the producers presumably had in mind will appreciate the entertainment of the series, but long for a little more. This is one side of the Asian community, and even though a good amount of us are rich and successful living representations of the cookie-cutter Asian memes seen in Facebook groups like Subtle Asian Traits, there are a lot of other stories that need to be shared. We don't all want to represent the wealthy nor the stereotypes that people expect. We can break away from the norms, and mainstream media portrayals of Asians play an integral part of that.
Bling Empire is fun to watch, and I mean, why not add a new series to your Netflix list? Will it make it on to more seasons? We'll see. Like all things from 2020, nothing is predictable, and I feel like 2021 will still have some quirky surprises for the world.
So overall, I'd recommend giving the first episode a try. The series certainly offers some unique twists to the standard reality show that we're all too accustomed to seeing. Hopefully, from its onset, Bling Empire's bling will continue to shine.