Kiwi Web Series Not Your ‘Asian’ Comedy

Photo by Katherine Lowe
Photo by Katherine Lowe

Inspired by the likes of Girls and High Maintenance, New Zealand-based series Flat3 follows the life of three Asian-kiwi women in their early 20s struggling with “who they are, what they’re doing in this life, and whose turn it is to buy toilet paper”.

Director and writer Roseanne Liang told Peril Magazine the web series aimed to be “just a comedy” not a “kiwi-Asian comedy”.

Already in its third season, the Flat3 team received public funding for the first time in September this year through government-funded agency, New Zealand on Air.

Liang said Flat3 aimed to approach racial issues in a “normalized way”.

Director Roseanne Liang
Director Roseanne Liang

“A lot of Asian narratives revolve around identity politics or the tortured victim,” she said. “I didn’t want to explicitly portray ourselves as the minority, or deal with racism in a blunt way.”

“I don’t go through everyday thinking about how Chinese I am.”

Flat3’s home in Auckland is somewhat known for being what social sciences academic Paul Spoonley calls “super diverse”, with about 23 per cent of the population identifying as Asian.

Liang said while the first audience was “themselves” they didn’t necessarily aim towards a Chinese niche market.

“Part of the reason for creating Flat3 was that we weren’t seeing any comedy like it on New Zealand television or online,” Liang said.

Ally Xue, an actor and co-producer of Flat3, pointed out the lack of Asian women in “positive romantic leads, or leads in general”.

“Why can’t the ‘cool girl’ or Jennifer Lawrence character be Asian or another minority race?” Xue said.

Another actor and co-producer of the showPerlina Lau said while the show was about Asian women in their 20s “you don’t have to be any of those things to find it entertaining”.

The Flat3 team wanted to “make a comedy which wasn’t about being a particular culture or ethnicity”, she said.

She said Flat3 had shown “most stereotypes across the three seasons” but they were never “forced” into the storyline.flat 3 4

She said that many of the common Asian stereotypes in Western television include the exotic beauty, the emotionless career motived girl, and more recently the affluent, rich Asian.

“I think we demonstrate we’re fully aware of those stereotypes and they happen for all cultures, but they aren’t the only representations you need to show and I would like to think we’ve done that,” Lau said.

Liang said if anything, Flat3 talked more about “stereotypes around women possibly more than stereotypes around Asians”.

“I don’t think it should be about whether or not it’s harder or easier for the white or Asian women, I think it’s about how it’s hard for women full stop,” she said, adding, “Comedy is a palatable and fun way of talking about what we want to talk about.”


Flat 3, Season 3 is returning in December. For more information and to watch the show go to

Ellen Seah

Author: Ellen Seah

Ellen Wu is an Australian RMIT journalism student. Ellen was born in Melbourne but her parents are immigrants from Malaysia and China. She volunteers on SYN community radio and writes for Digital Niche's online blog. You can follow Ellen on Twitter @Ellen_RMITLS