So, Are You There, Chelsea? is not a good television program. It’s yet another show that mistakes raunchiness for meaningful displays of individuality. It saddles Dot-Marie Jones with a deeply embarrassing side gig as a butch lesbian Chelsea (Laura Prepon) meets in prison. The wig Chelsea Handler wears to play Sloane, Chelsea’s sister (of whom Handler said earlier, “everything I’ve been accusing her of my whole life I can now reenact before her eyes”) is deeply unfortunate.
But especially after a fall of awful Asian stereotypes on 2 Broke Girls, I actually thought the one OK spot on Are You There, Chelsea? was Chelsea’s best friend and roommate, Olivia (Ali Wong), who happens to be Korean but doesn’t appear to be solely defined by her ethnic background. Sure, she makes jokes about her ethnicity, but they’re a means of allowing her to defined what role being Korean plays in her life, not of other people defining her by her Koreanness. Olivia snarks about her clothes smelling like kimchi from living at home. And when she and Chelsea talk about Olivia’s striving even though the only jobs available to her as an aspiring journalist are unpaid internships, Olivia deadpans “It’s the American dream. You people made it up.” When Chelsea explains how she and Olivia meant, her memories are of Olivia protecting her from a bully in a nice reversal of passive Asian stereotypes.
Is she perfect? Nah. I don’t really need to hear her ask their new roommate “You’re a virgin? Everywhere?” or talk about how the African-American gentleman she runs into the elevator is the source of her current ladyboner. But that’s part and parcel of the show’s trying-too-hardness, rather than big flaws in her character.