It almost hurts, considering the skill behind Little America Created by Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, and Lee Eisenberg, just about every episode is an outstanding half-hour of television. Each actor on-screen is fantastic to see, warm and pleasant at all times. The array of brown faces in front of and behind the camera is stunning: Uchenna “Conphidance” Echeazu, Eshan Inamdar, Kemiyondo Coutinho, and Tze Chun are stars and filmmakers from a wide array of backgrounds. The stories they tell (all based upon real life) stop simply shy of being saccharine.
Like many immigrant stories, they are about conquering or challenging nigh-insurmountable challenges. In “The Son,” a gay Syrian guy leaves his family who responded strongly to finding his orientation, crossing the border into Jordan in the hopes that he can one day claim asylum in the United States.
Because Little America positions these stories as “inspiring,” it’s worth thinking about why.
The concept is that we do not see these people represented very typically– individuals who, in the real life, suffer all way of bias and obstacles since they have dared to live a life in a nation that is not produced them, even as it postures as the land of opportunity. Little America, and works like it, exist as an act of compassion: look at these people. They just want the same basic things you do. A house, a company, a task, love. There are numerous tones to the exact same story.
However the extraordinary nature of Little America‘s subjects plays into the concept that immigrants must make our compassion, make the right to be in the United States, make the simple opportunity to discover happiness. In the US, stories like these are treated like a manual for citizenship if you’re a person of color and “inspiring” fodder for white individuals who wish to think themselves tolerant.
In another, more equitable pop culture landscape, perhaps Little America would land better. There is room for stories like these, and it bears repeating: it’s respectable television! What harms the series most is its frequent rejection to acknowledge that there are reasons its characters have problem with such challenge. In Little America, concerning the United States to make a life is simply tough, and the reasons are irrelevant– when, in reality, they are vital.
The episodes that increase above this are the ones that show why each character faces the predicament they do. The bittersweet nature of the immigrant experience is made concrete for half an hour.
These episodes are the exceptions. An excellent second season of Little America(which is already on the way) would follow their lead. A much better one would ditch our cultural fixation on immigrant battle porn completely.
Little America wants its audience to regard immigrants as totally realized individuals.
Disclosure: Little America is based on true stories originally released by Legendary Magazine, a subsidiary of Gaming Ideology, which is likewise The Brink’s parent business.