If you sat down to watch NBC’s Olympics coverage at any point over the last few weeks, you probably figured out the Superstore would be airing an Olympics-themed special episode ahead of its September 22nd season two premiere. And in case you missed it the first time around, NBC took advantage of just about every subsequent commercial break to remind you.
But viewers who took a moment to watch the August 19th broadcast were met with more than just zany antics from the aging Olympians promised in the episode’s heavy promo push. In fact, underneath all the goofy jokes and self-referential cameos, Superstore’s twelfth episode was actually a groundbreaking moment in US television.
In case you missed it, the storyline of our Filiprimo Nico Santos finds his character Mateo inadvertently discovering his undocumented status in the midst of Olympic fever. It’s a familiar storyline rooted in the difficult reality of journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and countless DREAMers, many of whom didn’t find out about their status until well into their teens. But for what may be the first time in network television history, this undocumented storyline actually revolves around an Asian immigrant character.
With the undocumented immigration narrative so firmly rooted in Mexican and Central American populations, it’s a momentous shift in representation for US media. And it’s one that is increasingly in line with the demographic reality of undocumented immigration. In fact, Asian-Americans represent 14 percent of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrations in the country, and are growing at a much faster rate than Latinos.
But in spite of the symbolic importance of this episode. Superstore spared us the emotional music and the didactic sermonizing. Instead, they opted for an absurd exchange in which Mateo laments how Asian-Americans are not allowed to vote and references his trip to “the green card store” before being hit with his life-changing epiphany.
It’s another notch in the belt for a show that is unapologetically shattering stereotypes and changing small-screen representation. Plus, with America Ferrera signed onto the show as a producer in addition to her acting duties, the vocal Latina might have had a little something to do with this powerful statement.
[h/t: Define American]