Whether you’re a chronic Netflix lover constantly found snuggled besides your laptop, or a reality show addict that’s seen everything from Jersey Shore to Flavor of Love, Terrace House is a must for your binge list. A Netflix Original based in Japan, Terrace House follows the lives of 6 strangers who share a luxurious house with a big car. Although it is lacking the dramatized club fights, screaming, and constant one-night stands that a traditional American reality show carries, Terrace House connects with us on a much deeper level.
I don’t deny that the first episode was slow, and that my initial thought was, ‘Oh… they’re all so… polite.’ The premise of Terrace House mainly focuses the budding romances that occur between a cast of 3 girls and 3 guys, their career development, and how they deal with situations. I wasn’t kidding about being polite, they’re all ridiculously nice to each other. They ask each other how their days were, go out for dinner, and make innocent outings. They get shy, bashful, amorous, and even awkward, despite the fact that the show usually consists of models and other glamorous career types. Even though this show isn’t as action packed as Snooki getting arrested for public intoxication or women battling over the Bachelor, the lack of drama, perhaps dare I say, actual reality of this reality show hits us in a soft spot. Their lives are relatable, their actions and behavior are realistic, the same way that we would react or the same situations we would find ourselves in. The shows we watch on TV nowadays are bloody, crass, and deathly dramatic. The more we watch it, the more we become desensitized to it. It all becomes the norm, and with each series that’s released, there needs to be even more fighting, even more heartbreak, and even more violence as its predecessor.
Terrace House is devoid of the extreme melodrama commonly found in American television, but rather resonates with us because it reminds us of feelings we have felt or yearn to feel. The confusion and disappointment from the lack of extreme situations quickly dissipates as we delve deeper into the episodes and find that we have become these characters ourselves. We feel as they feel, their rejection insults us, and our mouths stretch into a giddy smile when they find the prospect of love. What’s very different about this reality show is that it is no guilty pleasure because there is no guilt associated with watching it. Although a character’s actions could be questionable, sometimes even seemingly malicious, it is rooted from uncertainty or a fault in judgement, never caused solely and purposefully for the ratings.
What is also crucial to the value of Terrace House, which may be even more important than the reality, is that has an all Asian cast. While watching the show, I found myself thinking, ‘Oh! She reminds me of someone I know!’ or ‘Wow he looks just like ….!’ This is rarely something I’ve felt watching traditional American television. According to USC’s 2016 study on diversity in entertainment, Asians represent a measly 5.1 percent of speaking characters in film and television in 2014. One could say that it has only gotten worse with time as more Asian characters are being casted by white actors such as Scarlett Johansson portraying Major in Ghost in the Shell, Emma Watson playing Allison Ng in Aloha, and Matt Damon being China’s white saviour in Great Wall. Asian characters in film and television only further perpetuate unhealthy and hurtful stereotypes of Asians being sidekicks and nerds. As said by Thai actor, Pun Bandhu, “We’re the information givers. We’re the geeks. We’re the prostitutes. We’re so sick and tired of seeing ourselves in those roles.” We are rarely the lead, and only end up supplying the main white characters with assistance or providing insensitive comic relief based on backwards prenotions of Asians. We’re never the hero, we’re just Long Duk Dong. I cannot describe how excited I am to see that the cast of Terrace House, who are funny, cool, relatable people have brown eyes the same as mine or take off their shoes when they enter the house. I’ve never felt represented in the media growing up, and always had to cling onto the scraps of Asian representation that I couldn’t particularly relate to like the Yellow Ranger in Power Rangers. It is a common problem amongst young impressionable Asian Americans that they wished they could look more like their white peers, or be “less Asian.” This self-loathing comes from the glorification of western features in media and the non-existent representation of Asian characters.
More than simply deconstructing the unhealthy cycle of severe depravity portrayed in reality television, Terrace House connects us back to genuine human emotions as well as provides the representation that Asians deserve in the media. For anyone looking for a guilt-free binge with people of color, I couldn’t recommend Terrace House more than I do.