‘The Americans’ Is a Great Show, But Its Characters of Color Deserve Better
“The show’s characters of color appear rarely, briefly, subordinately, and often end up dead.”
Ed. note: This essay contains spoilers for all seasons of
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(Ivan Mok), a young Vietnamese refugee recruited by the USSR’s allies in Vietnam, the formula has grown so tired it hardly bears repeating: Tuan appears to facilitate a mission (an investigation of a Soviet defector and agricultural expert, Morozov, routed through his wife Evgheniya and son Pasha), and to expose how conflicted Philip and Elizabeth feel about exploiting vulnerable young operatives for their intelligence value. Tuan is militant in his devotion to the cause, but also so chronically lonely that he invites Philip and Elizabeth’s suspicion by contacting his former foster brother, who he says is dying of cancer. We learn little else about him. When Elizabeth tells Tuan in the season five finale that “You’re not gonna make it . . . You will fail,” she means that deep-cover work is impossible without a partner, but it’s difficult not to read her statement as a self-fulfilling prophecy for characters of color on the series.
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Laura Goode is the author of a collection of poems, Become a Name (Fathom Books, 2016), and a novel for young adults, Sister Mischief (Candlewick Press, 2011). She co-wrote and produced the feature film Farah Goes Bang, which premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and won the Nora Ephron Prize. Her nonfiction has appeared in BuzzFeed, Longreads, ELLE, Refinery29, New Republic, New York Magazine, Fusion, and Bright Ideas, where she is a contributing editor. She received a BA and MFA from Columbia University and lives in San Francisco. @lauragoode / tinyletter.com/lauragoode
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Johnston’s instrumental arrangements and shrill vocal style satisfied a primitive urge in me.