“Shopping is one of the most frequent and universal things we do,” said Tiffany Tong when explaining the idea behind her and cofounder, Irma Artanis’, new web series, Retail Rejects. She went on to talk about all the uncomfortable situations she was put in while working in retail- “theft, children unattended, odd requests and demands.” She was intrigued by the relationship between associates and managers, saying this type of workplace is “rich with characters and social politics.” Artanis explains how chaotic it can be in the retail industry, but also comical. She wanted to “show all the downsides that the retail workers encounter on a daily basis,” but in a lighter, funnier way. Tong adds, “I wanted Retail Rejects to be grounded in honesty and compassion,” with a lot of minority representation and especially shining a spotlight on women.
Something that Tong said resonated with me. “Years ago, when I first started thinking about being an actor, I was told to carefully evaluate that decision because I’m an Asian woman. What roles could I get? Or let alone make it a career? Maybe I’d be cast as someone’s sidekick, or be cast as a stereotype of my race. There are not a lot of Asians on television, after all, so an Asian girl pursuing acting was not a wise choice. It was a valid point, and because it held some truth, it was heartbreaking.” She continued, “Although it may not be a wise choice, it’s my choice.” Not only is that her choice, it’s now her goal to change this industry, introducing what’s lacking.
“The lack of positive representation in the media has been appalling, especially lately,” Artanis explains. She goes on to mention the ‘bury your gays’ trope and just the disappearing diversity we’re seeing on television these days. “We wanted to show as many diverse characters as we were able to,” including people of color and queer characters. She notes that this “played a big part in the creation of Retail Rejects.” Tong adds, the need to be “proactive in the pursuit of working in the film industry.” These two are absolutely doing that. I asked them what made this web series different than others. Artanis responded with, “We managed to create a show (that) will find an audience among those who feel underrepresented in the media lately.” Their overall theme for this series is being true to oneself.
I asked what they want their viewers to get out of this series. Artanis replied, “(to) find a little bit of themselves in (the) characters, and that they can say, ‘Hey, that’s me on the screen there, and I am a regular person who can find happiness, and can find friends, and I’m worthy of love and respect too- just like her!’ I think this is mostly relevant to young bisexual/lesbian girls who see themselves die on screen quite a lot lately. They need to see that their stories can be happy and complex, without fear of getting killed off for shock value.”
Tong and Artanis have a clear passion for this industry- for changing what it once was, and creating something so much better. It hasn’t been easy. They have a 9-hour time difference between them, and they work entirely over Skype. Over a year, Tong and Artanis had to overcome obstacles with scheduling and technology to get to where they are today, but they couldn’t be happier with the result.
The eleventh episode of season one is set to drop this Sunday on their YouTube channel! Catch up before it airs!