"Romeo Must Wed": The Little Know Episode of The Proud Family

15.10.11 ShaSha LaPerf 1 Comments

Earlier this week I was watching TV when I came across a Proud Family marathon on the TV station Centric. It had been a while since I'd seen the show, so I wasn't interested in the episode of Living Single that was on. And what do you know, I came across the episode where the main character Penny Proud, falls for an Asian guy. I briefly mentioned this episode when I wrote about Asians who had appeared in black shows seeing as Kwok, Penny Proud's main interest is Dante Basco. But it had been quite some time since I'd seen the episode and decided to watch it. The full episode is on YouTube:

Part 1:

Part 2:

But let me give a little background on the show. The Proud Family was a an animated TV show that aired on The Disney Channel from 2001-2005. Whereas shows like the PJs, The Cleveland Show, and The Boondocks was aimed at adults, The Proud Family was a show aimed at a younger black audience and featured the voices of Kyla Pratt (from One on One), Tommy Davison (In Living Color), Soliel Moon Fry (Punky Brewster) and Mary Jo Payton (Family Matters). Kyla plays Penny Proud, a young girl with a group of wacky friends and their wacky hijinks. Her father owns what seems to be a nasty snack company, her mom is the typical housewife, and her grandmother is old and sassy. The show occasionally runs as marathons on Centric and BET.Although the show was not in my age range, I watched it from time to time. I just saw it as an animated sitcom similar to TV shows like Family Matters.

So if you don't want to watch the full episode here's a quick synopsis. The name of the episode is "Romeo Must Wed," which is a play on the movie Romeo Must Die with Aaliyah and Jet Li, and the episode has a running theme of "star-crossed" lovers. Plus the students are performing the play Romeo and Juliet. Anyway, Penny is chosen to be Juliet and Kwok is Romeo. While practicing the play, Penny realizes she has feelings for Kwok only to find out that he's engaged to be married which was arranged by his parents. At the end of the episode Kwok tells Penny his feelings for her, and they perform the play.

The episode has standard sitcom stuff going on, but I have to commend it for a couple of reasons.

For one it's an animated show and it's taking on interracial dating. As I mentioned before the intended audience for this show is younger than that of a show then say South Park. I can't think of any animated shows that not only featured an interracial couple, but addressed it as well. Sure you may spot a black/white couple randomly in the background of a Batman: The Animated Series show, but that was it, they would simply be background characters. This entire episode centers around in an interracial couple. It opens up teens to the idea of interracial couple. Penny is living in a diverse neighborhood with a diverse group of people. She and her friends have had crushes on guys of all races in the show and I liked that the show took this route, because for a lot of young girls, it is pretty realistic.

And I have to give commend the show for using a black female/Asian male couple. The only teen show I could think of that featured any black/Asian relationship is California Dreams from the mid-90s, and that couple was a black male with an Asian female (I freaking loved this show by the way...it was a serious guilty pleasure of mine). So not only is the show delving into the idea of an interracial couple, they're giving us a couple we hardly see on TV. Of course this isn't the first time Disney has given us a blasian couple as many of us remember the wildly successful Cinderella movie from 1997 that featured singer Brandy and Paolo Montalban:

It's interesting that the Cinderella movie and this episode of the Proud Family has some similarities in the sense that we have a conflict between couples and we get happy endings in the end. But this is Disney after all and despite the diversity in casting for Cinderella, that movie wasn't meant to tackle race, but be a cute movie.

Of course this episode of The Proud Family is not without its faults. Kwok and Penny clearly admit their feelings for each other, and it appears that Penny and Kwok end up together at the end of episode. However, the show never addresses the relationship again. In fact I don't think Kwok even appears in later episodes, not even as a friend. I suppose the reasoning behind this is that the show is episode and in cartoon land, whatever happens in that episode, stays in that episode. None of Penny's other crushes appear again either.

I fuckin hate Romeo and Juliet and was annoyed at seeing it in this episode. I have a strong bias against Romeo and Juliet because I was an English major in college and had to read and analyze that shit at least three times and I fucking hate that play. So it bugged me that this play was chosen. Do high school students actually perform this as a school play? It's the go-to play for pretty much any TV show that needs one. The episode also made a reference to the movie Romeo Must Die with Aaliyah and Jet Li. The problem here is that the correlation between Romeo and Juliet, Romeo Must Die, and Penny and Kwok are so painfully obvious that it's damn near an insult to our intelligence. "They're doing Romeo and Juliet because they're star crossed lovers? Get It? Well guess what, they're an interracial couple with feuding parents, like Romeo and Juliet's feuding parents, GET IT? And Kwok doesn't have feelings for his fiance, just like Juliet and Paris because they're doing...ROMEO and JULIET! GET IT! Oh yeah and it's a blasian couple just like in Romeo Must Die which is a play on...Romeo and Juliet! GET IT!?" Yes, we get it. You shoved it down our throats the entire episode. I would have been way more impressed if the show had been able to spin a play like Little Shop of Horrors into the Penny and Kwok story! At least they did show more lines than just "Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

Kwok's parents just seem to play the role of "typical Asian parents," who are apparently so strict that Kwok isn't allowed to have female friends because of his engagement. This doesn't make much sense because we (as in the audience) don't know how long Kwok and Penny have known each other and how much time they spend together. It's not explained until after the parents confrontation. It's also confusing because all the parents refer to Kwok and Penny's relationship as a "friendship" even though it's very obvious that there's more going on than that. And I have to admit that I'm not an expert on China, but 'd like to know what part of China in this day and age has arranged marriages for their kids before their kids are born. I know arrange marriages still exist in China. But here it just feels like a silly plot device because Kwok is Chinese and that's what "Asian people do." I suppose the creators thought "Kwok being to busy with his math homework to date" storyline would just be too lame.

As for Penny's parents, Penny's mother is just supportive of Penny's decision. Penny's father is doesn't like her being with Kwok not being he's Asian, but he's overprotective; he'd feel that way with anyone. However he's very quick to assume that Kwok's parents don't want to him to be with Penny because she's "not good enough for Kwok." I was also bothered by this because it's clear that Penny's father meant Kwok's parents didn't want them together because their black as evidences by Kwok's father's reaction. Why didn't they just have Penny's father come out an say it? At any rate the parents appear at the end of the episode, but I'm not sure if the audience is supposed to assume that they parents are okay with the relationship and each other.

Finally, something that's bugged me about this show in general is the character of Dijonay, who seemed to encompass every terrible young black girl stereotype they could muster up. Her name sounds like Dijon mustard. Dijonay is  chubby with clothes that barely cover her stomach, blonde hair, a big mouth, and I get the feeling that this girl would be showing up on Maury in a year or two. She's aggressive and obsessed over their friend Sticky who seems disgusted with her most of the time. There are many girls out there like Dijonay in real life, but there are also too many of them on TV as well. Then again this is the same show that has a Latina's girl name is "LaCienega Boulevardez."

Okay, I think I've over-analyzed this episode enough. It's just a random episode of the TV show and despite all my complaints I was still amused by it and the series itself. Seriously it's not many animated shows out there aimed at young black folks and I'm glad to see that this show is in syndication. Who knows, maybe some people will be inspired by this episode to go after the hot Asian guy or black girl they want. #shrugs

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I too watched this episode and was stumped by the no Penny and Kwok relationship. One other time you see him is during the poetry episode and they don't interact in anyway like, "hey remember that play we did and my parents told you we cant be together?" Like nothing and it bugs me because they were a cute couple with chemistry. Now I'm black but my great grandparents came from Guang Dong province in China and they were Hakka. Now Hakka people are poor well at least my family was and the way I had it explained was that you often did it to repay another family or as a sort of agreement. Now my guess is Kwok is first generation Chinese American. What immigrant family who clearly has money still does arranged marriage. Its not the Han dynasty anymore it happens yes but its not that common anymore. As for my grandmother well she's half black and apparently her mother wasn't to mix with anyone else unless they were also chinese so yeah interracial dating was looked down upon and my great grandparents actually disowned their daughter for being with a black guy. My grandmother was sort of a first class snob. All of her kids are the least black looking black people and she wanted her grandchildren to not look black. She even married my grandfather who was 100% scottish. But of course my dad had me and my brother and our mom is very dark. I came out very yellow partially from jaundice but even now I still am that yellow brown tone. My brother is like me without the yellow. Anyways my grandmother liked both of us but tended to like me more because I spoke Mandarin and understood Hakka and well yeah lighter skin is a plus for her. My brother she didn't mind but he didn't speak any chinese so she had to speak English for him whenever she was addressing me and our cousins. My grandmother was harsh with dating. No east indian guys and no black guys. Some of my cousins were half chinese some were half white my brother and I were the only ones that she considered half black. Haha well she flipped when my cousin brought a black girl over... I was too young to date. My mom doesnt want me mixing she thinks I act too white and I'm a snob to black people which isn't true I've liked black guys but white guys tend to notice me more and so I end up with them... so back to the episode I think they should have picked up with the Penny Kwok romance and showed how people react to an asian guy hand in hand with a black girl but it isn't for that targeted age group. And when this show was on I was 6-10 and I loved it and watched everyday. So while I'm flustered it didn't go on I think this is still a fabulous show and they do take the serious topics well and in a way kids can understand.