We were expecting so much from American Born Chinese. Chinese fantasy series in recent years have amassed a global fandom, and we were excited when we heard that Disney was going to release a series based on Chinese mythological characters. There was so much promise and scope, but it all went to waste because neither the writers nor anybody in the visual team could capture the essence of the community’s culture. American Born Chinese has been called a comedy, but did they intend for the humor to be in the fight sequences and the costumes? If that was the case, the makers’ racism shows, and if that wasn’t the idea, then their ignorance is evident. We have a series dealing with gods and magical beings, but the story arc of Simon and Christine Wang’s marital problems and Freddy Wong’s issues with racism in Hollywood were the parts that left an impression. There is really no excuse for how this series turned out, and Disney has served a disappointment. Either way, here is a recap of American Born Chinese.
What Is The Supernatural Background Of The Series?
We can bet that a lot of us have heard that there is a story called Journey to the West, and it was led by Sun Wukong, also known as the Monkey King or The Great Sage. He is one of the few mythological characters that has caught the imagination of modern-day fiction writers like nobody else has. In American Born Chinese his character is given yet another interpretation: that the journey to India wasn’t his idea but that of his once best friend, Niu Mowang, better known as the Bull Demon. Centuries ago, when Sun Wukong was not yet The Great Sage but was a simple monkey, he accompanied Mowang to what we will call a celestial corporate party. Mowang is ambitious but doesn’t have the courage to step forward for what he wants. Wukong is his best friend, who constantly encourages him to put himself out there, and in that party, it is he who creates the stage for his friend, except that Mowong doesn’t get on it. Wukong even steals the staff of the Great Sage, called the Jingu Bang, but it is of no use to Mowong. Finally, an exasperated Wukong gets on stage and declares his disdain for the people present and their delusions of hierarchy. Somehow, that became the catalyst for the current Great Sage to announce Wukong as his successor. This creates a rift between the friends, with Mowang saying that he wanted to do things his own way and never wanted to be like Wukong.
After their fallout, Wukong led that journey to the West and captured the wisdom he had learned in four scrolls. But the fourth scroll was destroyed by the Buddha, and it is prophesied to come back only when the world is on the brink of destruction. In the present day, Mowang is leading a rebellion against the Great Sage to reclaim what he believes is his. Wei Chan (Wukong’s son) has a dream where a crane tells him that a guide will lead him to the fourth scroll, which will stop the uprising against heaven. Trusting this dream, Wei Chan steals his father’s staff and comes to Earth to a high school, where he believes that Jin is his guide (because of a hunch he has).
Do Jin’s Parents Want To Separate?
Simon Wang and Christine Wang are first-generation immigrants who came to America to chase a better life. As Christine often says at the beginning of American Born Chinese, when she got married, Simon was an ambitious man who wanted to achieve big things in life. But many years later, he has become someone who is afraid to speak up for what he deserves. Christine is pushing him to ask for a promotion since he has been stuck in the same position for so long, but Simon is unable to bring himself to do so. This is a cause of constant friction between the couple, and Jin is affected by it. However, one day, when Simon finally gets the chance to speak with his boss, he discovers that he is retiring and can’t do much for Simon. But Christine sees this as an opportunity and asks her husband to try for the position of the boss itself. But Simon is too late to do that, and the position goes to someone else. He is disappointed and wants to quit the job, but he can’t since Christine has used up half of their savings for her new herbal powder business. Jin tries to act as the peacemaker between his parents, with some moderate success. When he gets into trouble at school, and the principal is a little racist in her approach towards the issue, Simon stands up for Christine, and that is the start of their reconciliation. They realize that they both have been bogged down by life and do not have any goals in common, even though that is what initially brought them together. But there is a willingness in the couple to work together, and they make conscious strides towards that.
Wei Chan And Jin’s Story
Jin has struggled a lot with his identity and race for a while now. The racism is not as aggressive as it is underlying, and Jin’s need to get the approval of his white peers leads him to have very low self-esteem. That is when he meets Wei Chan, someone who is very self-assured and doesn’t doubt himself very much. Wei Chan wants to be Jin’s friend because he believes that he is his guide; however, Jin doesn’t want the same because spending time with Wei Chan means that he is closer to his Chinese roots, something that he is not proud of yet. Meanwhile, Wei Chan is facing struggles as his father’s people from heaven are desperately trying to take him back. But he is adamant and is even able to fight off his father. He is being helped by Guanyin, the Goddess of Compassion, and she is determined to help him follow his dream.
One day, Jin accidentally witnesses Wei Chan fighting with one of his father’s magical beings, and that reveals his real identity to him. Wei Chan tells Jin the entire truth and convinces him to join his quest by helping Jin with his soccer team’s hazing activities. However, before Jin can help him, Mowong steals the staff from Wei Chan, and Wukong takes his son back to heaven. But when Wei Chan expresses his desire to take a different path from his father, Wukong allows him to go back to Earth. Sadly, what was a few hours for Wei Chan has been an entire month for Jin. Regardless, they restart their quest by seeking out an exiled monk, Ji Gong, and Wei Chan discovers that the fourth scroll may exist in any form and probably has a history behind it. This makes Wei Chan think of the pendant that Jin’s mom wears. But before he can get that, Ji Gong steals it. Luckily, Wei Chan steals it back, but Jin wants to take it to his parents. This causes a fight between these two, though nothing comes out of it. Guanyin takes the pendant to a celestial stone expert and discovers that it is not what they were hoping for. Meanwhile, Mowong attacks Wei Chan for the fourth scroll, except Wukong tries to save his son and ends up getting severely injured. The optics of the situation make it look like Wukong is dead, and Wei Chan is heartbroken, especially since it looks like it might all be for naught. If the fourth scroll doesn’t exist, what did he come to Earth for? Even Guanyin says that she wanted Wei Chan to follow his dream, but nobody could guarantee whether they would come true or not.
‘American Born Chinese’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Wei Chan And Jin?
Jin finally takes the help of his best friend, Anuj, whom he trusts to believe his crazy story and help him and Wei Chan. Jin is proven right, and Anuj really comes through for them. He figures out that a lot of what is unfolding right now has been captured by fiction writers whenever they have used the Monkey King as a subject for their stories. They narrowed down the facts from the widespread fiction with the help of Wei Chan and came up with a plan. It is the day of the soccer match, and the three friends decide to stage a cosplay performance to draw out Mowang, who has the Jingu Bang.
It is the autumn equinox, and the path between heaven and Earth will be clear for a while. Mowong plans on using the staff to draw out the power of the Earth to use against Heaven. The friends need to get the staff back to prevent this from happening. Jin cosplays as the Bull Demon, and he spares no insult for him, which finally triggers Mowong enough to show himself. In the fight that follows, Wukong reappears, and everyone’s trying to stop Mowong. But he might just succeed since he successfully plants the staff, and it is about to shoot its power into the heavens. That is when Jin finally plucks up the courage to do what his instincts are telling him to. He throws himself in the way of the powers and stops them from attacking the heavens. This proves to be the key to foiling Mowong’s plan and reveals Jin as the fourth scroll to the entire world, though only a few know what it means. This plot point needs further explanation, and we believe that we will get that in Season 2.
At the end of Season 1 of American Born Chinese, Mowong is taken to heaven for a hearing with the Jade Emperor. Wei Chan says goodbye to Jin and promises him that he will find all the answers they need. But this is far from the end of the road, and when Jin goes to his house, he finds that his parents are missing and that a mysterious lady is sitting on the couch, about to demand something from him. We believe that this mysterious woman is Princess Iron Fan, who, as per Chinese mythology, is the wife of the Bull Demon. We can say that Princess Iron Fan would have felt like taking revenge on Wei Chen and Jin for closing the portal and making her husband suffer, but that is not the only driving force. She wanted to get the fourth scroll, as she knew that it was the key to everything and would help her establish her authority and fulfill her and her husband’s ambitions. She knew that Jin was the fourth scroll, and that is why she had kidnapped his parents—to coerce him to do as he was told. It is ironic that a person who had trouble determining his worth due to who he was and where he came from was, in reality, the fourth scroll, and he was destined to play a crucial role in the upcoming battle. These mysteries are probably going to be unraveled in the next season of American Born Chinese, and we are going to find out what fate has in store for them.
The story of American Born Chinese had its heart in the right place, and its placement of characters and the common thread of struggles through their lives was admirable. Yet it failed to give us an interesting execution. The costume design and the action scenes were embarrassing to look at, and there was literally no comedy throughout the episodes, despite the series claiming to fall into that genre. If representation was the goal of this series, why was it so badly done? How can one believe that playing into stereotypes is a good way to break them? Chinese folklore is very rich with a diverse range of characters, and if they were to be brought to the screen, there needed to be more research on creating the looks, if nothing else. The references are plentiful, and some of the many Chinese fantasy dramas could have been used as a guide. But what we get is this, and other than the plot of Jin’s parents and Freddy Wong, played admirably by Ke Huy Quan, nothing captivates our attention. Also, this series should have just been six episodes. There was a lot of uninteresting narrative there, and it could have been done away with. American Born Chinese is bursting with visible potential, but it was completely let down by its casting and set design. Disney should have done better.