The APAHM Project Days 18-22: XO, Kitty
Series: XO, Kitty
Created by: Jenny Han
Where to Watch: Netflix
Wanna Skip? Pick a Movie from APAHM Project 2022, 2021, 2020
Why It Made The List:
A new spin-off series from Jenny Han (TATB and The Summer I Turned Pretty), XO, Kitty is a modern-teenage romance series that bridges Eastern and Western storytelling. XO, Kitty is also the first Netflix original series to originate from a Netflix original movie.
This series was absolutely so enjoyable and bingeable. I really wasn't sure what to expect but the trailers sold me in a heartbeat. Visually and stylistically, the show stays true to its TATB roots. Everything from the wardrobe, the colors, the music, and angles are reminiscent of the movies that came before it. There are a few minor notes such as why Kitty and Yuri's nail color stays the same throughout an entire semester and where did Kitty's glasses go. I chalked up the glasses to the fact that this is not the same Kitty Song Covey we knew from her sister's movies. Kitty Song Covey has grown up but proves she still has a lot to learn.
For backstory, Kitty is the youngest of three sisters who lost their Korean mother at a very young age. In the first installment of TATB, Kitty says her mother died when she was still in diapers and eating mushed peas. In TATB3, the Song Covey family takes a trip to Korea where Kitty meets Dae. They begin a long distance relationship. About 4(?) years have passed since we last see Kitty and she's now a junior in high school and still doing LDR with Dae. After discovering more about her mother over the summer, she decides to apply for a scholarship abroad at KISS - Korean Independent School of Seoul to go back to her roots and go to the same school her mother did. Of course as an added bonus, Dae also attends this school but has no idea she is coming.
Of course in both Jenny Han and rom-com fashion, drama ensues. Kitty finds herself to be a fish out of water when she discovers Dae has a girlfriend at KISS. She earns herself a new nickname, discovers more about her family than she ever imagined, and gets caught up in, not a love triangle, but square.
While watching this series, I was clearly very hooked. It was refreshing and contained elements that I recognized from the little K-dramas I've watched and a teen coming of age story. All the characters were likable. But I was having a hard time thinking of ways to connect this show back to AAPI Heritage Month. But I think a lot of us can relate to Kitty and her desire to be more connected to her ethnic roots.
Kitty never grew up around her Korean mother and was raised by her white father in Portland. She knows pretty much zero Korean. She can’t tie the bow on her hanbok or cook a Korean meal. Pretty much the only Asian trait she follows is taking her shoes off at the door. I was raised by two Chinese parents — my mother, who immigrated at the age of 9, and my father, the son of an immigrant who grew up in Memphis. Both my parents assimilated to America at a young age but still kept their roots due to their more traditional parents. However, when my sister and I were kids, learning Cantonese or certain customs was not a priority for us. Nor was it “forced” upon us by our parents. As an adult, the one thing I regret in life is not learning Cantonese at a young age. I get very embarrassed when aunties speak to me in Chinese and I can’t say anything back even though I can pick up what they’re saying to me. But more importantly, I regret that I cannot communicate freely with my elderly grandmother. I also can’t cook hardly any Chinese dishes and a lot of my knowledge of Chinese culture comes from other people’s experiences, books, and media.
The idea of feeling othered is circumstantial. In Memphis, I am very, very Asian. Memphis’ population is 60% Black, so even though I consider myself quite Westernized, I will always be “that Asian girl.” To the older generations here I am too Americanized. I lack the knowledge and customs that they have held so dear years after immigrating. In Asia-populated cities, I’m still not accepted because of my Southern upbringing. Many heavily Asian-populated cities might contain first-generation Asian Americans or fifth-generation. I believe that many immigrant families assimilate to survive. But where is the line between assimilation and erasure? Even though Kitty’s dad tries to cook Korean meals or have his daughters go to family functions or takes them to Korea, he lacks the ability to give his daughters the connection that they need to find for themselves.
In a brief scene, a classmate asks if Kitty is even half Korean or if she’s just white. We talk a lot about the biracial experience on The APAHM Project, but I’m sure for Kitty, who came to Korea to learn about her mother and culture, this was a deep cut. KISS is an international school full of expats and diverse ethnic groups, so why should she be outcasted based on her biracial identity?
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Kitty is the only Covey girl to use her mother’s maiden name. Kitty is constantly introducing herself as Song Covey and I think it is her way to connect to the mother she barely knew. It could also be so that people know she is half-Korean. Out of all the sisters, Kitty is the most white-passing. Including Song is a way to tell others that she has Korean roots as well.
Throughout the show, Kitty is still very much Kitty. She gives off those youngest sibling vibes we have come to find endearing from the TATB series. She is still a matchmaker for everyone but herself, which seems to be the most discouraging realization to her. She is still a feminist. In episode 6, Kitty stands up for Yuri (Dae’s girlfriend) when a guy begins to criticize Yuri’s looks. Kitty does not participate in this…catty…behavior and defends Yuri instead. This eventually leads to the two of them becoming friends. *Spoiler Ahead* Kitty also discovers that she may be bi, fluid, or pan (she isn’t quite sure) and struggles with her emotions and feelings for 2 different people. Kitty calls her dad to discuss this, which as much as I like their dad, I wish she had called Lara Jean, Margot, or even Peter to talk about this. I’m sure it was a casting issue, but it seems more in character for Kitty to go to her sisters or Peter about love and identity. I did like that Dr. Covey was supportive and encouraging to Kitty when she came out to him. *End Spoiler*
Big shocker, the season ends with a cliff hanger as Kitty travels back to Portland for winter break. I sincerely hope this show gets a second season. It was so easy to watch and boosted my mood and was endearing and dramatic in the best ways. I am excited to see what we will see from Kitty Song Covey next.
If you like rom coms, enemy to lover tropes, fake dating tropes, and everything in between, you need to check out XO, Kitty. I also think this show is a great gateway to those who have wanted to get into K-dramas but haven’t taken that dive yet. It definitely made me want to watch more K-dramas that centered on teenagers rather than adults. Jenny Han, as we discussed in the previous blog post, can be known for some “problematic” choices, but I think she nails this series. Also, as I was searching for something on YouTube the other day, "Min Ho Xo, Kitty" was trending as a search. I am loving that Asian men are being seen as desirable and sexy (not in a fetishized way) through shows like this one. XO, Kitty was the number one show on Netflix its first weekend and I am hoping that we only go up from here.
Small Business Shout-Out!
Today's small business shout out goes to Chunks! Chunks was founded by Tiffany Ju who struggled to find cute hair clips. They are climate neutral certified and proudly and responsibly manufactured in China in which they are trying to change the negative stereotype of products made in China. Chunks has collaborated with NPR and Asian American Girl Club (founded by actress Ally Maki). With colorful and chunky hair accessories making a comeback (like Kitty's yellow barrette on the first day of school) be sure to check them out!
If You Liked This, You Might Like:
Never Have I Ever on Netflix
Partner Track on Netflix
Love Hard on Netflix