I’d Happily Celebrate Christmas With Poppy Li
I’m finally getting all caught up on Mythic Quest‘s third season, which has reunited me with my one true love, Poppy Li. I began this catch-up with the Christmas episode, wherein there were the usual office antics, and then: a little game of tug-of-war between Poppy and Ian, who both claimed they were only there for one another. Both are probably true and wrong. But I’m not here for Ian (especially after this last episode). I’m here for my girl. The sort of girl who’d absolutely turn down my proposal but I’d get down on one knee anyways just for her.
Poppy is pretty much the AAPI woman protagonist I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time, and it took me until this season to realize it. Poppy is a jerk. She’s ambitious and self-absorbed, she’s crass, and she washes her hair so infrequently, you can bet on seeing a disgusting film of grease on her head in more than half of the scenes she’s in.
To all that I say: HELL. YES. MORE PLEASE!
People really want their Asian women to be one of these three things: 1) Having “smart” and “bitchy” as their only character traits, 2) Sex kittens who show a lil’ leg for breakfast, and 3) Non-Westernized with a catch, either for comedic appeal or to further the main (non-Asian) character’s interests. It’s stupid! I grew up feeling weird about my identity because I didn’t fit into any of these three categories, and therefore felt forced to adopt these categories at various points in my life just to feel accepted by others.
Then there’s Poppy just out there being her unhinged self while still being vulnerable enough to seem like a genuine human being, and I look at her and think, Oh my god, she’s my dream woman. And she’s also representative of a lot of Asian women I’ve known in my personal life!
This was only further exemplified in the “Sarian” episode, which, yes, made me cry. Both stories were fantastic, as per usual in these flashback episodes, but Poppy’s in particular made my heart sing. For one thing, it’s so rare to see a mixed-Asian story with a white mother and an Asian father (for a variety of reasons worthy of their own post), let alone in a well-written manner. For another, hell yes, weird Asian kid backstory!!! I was also banned from using the computer until a certain age, and I was also forced to take piano lessons, and I was also somewhat of a familial pariah. And I mean, look, I wouldn’t say I was ever as hostile or antisocial as Poppy, but I still loved how genuine and determined her younger self was. I loved how smart she was in getting what she wanted. I loved how, even when presented with roadblocks, she still found ways to adapt and pursue the things she loved the most. And of course, I loved her relationship with her dad. (Fuck yeah, Filipino rep.)
I don’t even think the writers were trying to “do” something with Poppy as an example of better representation, I think they just did the best thing a writer could do, which is to write someone who’s realistic. Some people think “realism” means within their realms of understanding, but the writers for Mythic Quest have big enough brains to know what it really means: to be real! About everyone! And anyone! They decided to make an Asian woman their co-protagonist and used those big brains to say, Alright gang let’s make this broad an actual person with a backstory that people can actually relate to and a set of proclivities that make her feel real. Phenomenal, showstopping, iconic, dare I say never-before-seen.
Here’s the thing, I love my friends to death, but I’ve always, always wanted to meet someone like Poppy. I’ve always craved the camaraderie only a person like me–mixed-Asian, femme, and pissy AF–could provide, not even intentionally, but just by existing. If I met Poppy, I wouldn’t care that she was an asshole, I’d be so down to teach her the ways of “the brunch,” validate every time she insists she has had “a lot of the sex,” and just sit in her office while she did whatever she does at work. Poppy is who she is and she’s always been tough enough to know she doesn’t need to be anyone else. Poppy is just out there doing her freak thing.
And if she could stomach our presence, me and all the other weird Asian girls would happily give her the Christmas she can’t have back home. Maligayang Pasko!
(Featured Image: Apple TV+)
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