One of the recent joys in my life is Netflix adding seasons of King of the Hill and Parks and Recreation to its Instant queue. This provided me with solace over the past week as I attempted to rid a seemingly endless stream of sinus waste from my nose. Also, these delightful Greg Daniels-helmed sitcoms make up for The Office outstaying its welcome long before Jim and Pam walked down the aisle.
I’m revisiting the sixth season of Hill, a show I’ve already established my fandom for in an earlier post about another female musician in the cast. However, I must’ve either missed or forgotten about “The Bluegrass Is Always Greener,” wherein overworked violin prodigy Connie Souphanousinphone ditches music camp in Fort Worth to enter a bluegrass competition in Branson with neighbor Hank Hill and his buddies.
Connie is one of the show’s most interesting characters and played wonderfully by Lauren Tom. She is smart, shy, and well-mannered, yet critical of her parents’ materialism and stubborn toward her dad’s wishes that she dump boyfriend Bobby Hill, date the more superficially suitable Chane Wassonasong, and become an accomplished violinist. She’s the protagonist of “Aisle 8A,” which focuses on her getting her first period while staying with the Hills while her parents are away on a business trip. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the show’s run and perhaps one of the few episodes that considers an animated girl character’s foray into menstruation.
Connie’s parents Mihn and especially her father Kahn put a tremendous amount of pressure of their only child to excel in school and extra-curricular activities. The dimensions of their involvement are complex. They at once take pride in their Laotian heritage and also out of a need to prove themselves as fully integrated into American bourgeois society, supposedly a world away from the fictional suburb of Arlen, Texas. Connie takes pride in her scholastic achievements, but as a musician isn’t as interested in becoming the New York Philharmonic‘s principal violinist as she is in having fun. She becomes interested in bluegrass after hearing Hank jam with the neighbors in the alley. Fed up with her father’s hovering (and possibly also the stereotype of the Asian American violin virtuoso), she skips out on a bus to Fort Worth and gets the gang together for the trip to Branson.
Things take an interesting turn, however, when Hank reveals he may share more with nemesis Kahn than the same letters in their name when he puts too much pressure on Connie and takes the fun out of performance. She quits the band and starts playing on a street corner with Bobby. Admittedly, she and Bobby have troublesome delusions of meeting poverty-stricken Appalachian families to get back to the “roots” of bluegrass. However, the episode resolves with all parties convening and Connie reconnecting with the personal joy she gets from playing music.