A few weeks ago, we mustered up all of the inner nerd we had (not hard to do) and attended Walker Stalker in downtown Nashville. Yes, a “con”! It was our first one ever but we were terribly misled in believing that we were “big enough” fans of The Walking Dead to attend – the other attendees put us to shame! If you haven’t been to a “Comic Con”-type event, it’s quite the sight to behold. There are tons of vendors selling every possible shirt/print/magnet/prop replica imaginable. Cosplay is huge. A number of show actors attend to meet fans and take pictures with them. There are panels dissecting every minute part of the show. It’s intense!
We attended for one sole reason: to meet Steven Yeun. For fans of the Walking Dead, you best know him as “Glenn,” the beloved, unassuming hero that we all *SPOILER ALERT* tearfully bid farewell to in the most recent season of the show. Since we began watching the show (only last year – we went on a serious winter binge!), Glenn was the sole character that we both agreed was totally awesome. We typically favor characters that are polar opposites of each other, then argue over who is really the best, but there was no discussion to be had about Glenn. He was hands-down our favorite.
I never thought much about the reason why. Obviously, he was the only Asian, and that’s hard to come by in popular media these days (though we are certainly beginning to make strides). Furthermore, he was Korean – YES! Beyond that, he was just a lovable character that was popular with the fans, right?
Then we met him that Sunday and I began to think more about it. We stood in a huge line of fans, anxiously awaiting our 15 seconds with him (security does NOT mess – you say hi, smile for the camera, then get pushed on through), joking that we were probably both going to cry once we saw him. We were uncharacteristically nervous. “What are you going to say to him?,” we prodded each other.
We finally got to the front of the line and stepped up for our picture. We were grinning like idiots.
“Oh hey, Korean Tennesseans?!,” he asked.
“Yes!,” we managed to squeak out.
OMG, he spoke to us! The picture captures our dorky, starstruck, toothy smiles.
That was about the extent of it. We thanked him profusely then got pushed on for the rest of the line to get through.
The magic lingered through the day. We revisited every step and every millisecond of the insignificant (to him) encounter.
“Why were we so affected?,” I began to wonder. We live in Nashville. Celebrity sightings are about as hard to come by here as an SEC fan. But for some reason, we just couldn’t stop talking about meeting Steven.
Then it struck me. Glenn was a hero. Not like a hero just to us Asians. The wide-reaching Walking Dead fanbase – WHITE people would agree – Glenn was a hero. He was beloved by everyone.
He was not the nerdy Mathnastics sidekick. He was not the brooding artsy weirdo. He wasn’t the comedic ninja. He was a fearless leader that we all respected.
What other heroes do Asians have in media now? Hmm. Very few. That night, “The Maze Runner” was on TV and even though we have seen it a thousand times, we stayed glued to the screen to see what would happen to Min Ho (Ki Hong Lee). “I love this guy!,” I exclaimed. “You love all the Asians,” Lee quipped. Then we both considered his point and simultaneously said, “Not that there are very many…”
It’s no wonder I was obsessed with Mulan as a kid. (Yes, I know – she’s Chinese.) Heck, I would even take the “Pocahontas” I got called when I was young (Yes, I know – not even close to Korean). How many heroes did I have to look up to that LOOKED LIKE ME? I can count them on one hand.
Representation is not a new hot topic these days, but this stunning personal realization was like a lightning bolt. I have never felt so gosh-darn proud to be called a Korean and look like a Korean as I was standing next to Glenn. Can’t you see it in our faces?
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