By Ann Trachte
Amy Rider, a Japanese American actress best known for her role on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, is not afraid to put traditional relationships to the test. Rider produces and acts in the new YouTube series The Monogamy Experiment which is designed as a mixed mockumentary/documentary.
The weekly webseries features couple Nigel and Amy, played by Brayden Pierce and Rider herself, who find themselves questioning their readiness to get married and wondering if humans are really meant to be monogamous. Their therapist, portrayed by Inception actor Tohoru Masamune, recommends an experiment: they will try an open relationship for 30 days to decide whether they want to tie the proverbial knot.
Each episode follows the dates, thoughts, and adventures of the couple as they attempt to see other people and proceed with the experiment. Clips from interviews with actors and producers about their opinions on monogamy are spliced into the episode as they relate to the events on screen. Five episodes, all about five minutes long, have been uploaded so far.
Despite the strong Asian Pacific American representation within the show’s cast and crew, the series focuses more on comedy rather than cultural background. Still, the experiment’s premise is something any Asian American might question under the clash of cultures: the expectation of traditional, monogamous marriage espoused by most of the older Asian generation versus the socially acceptable freedom in American culture to explore more open or non-traditional relationships.
At first, the show feels like it’s trying too hard, and the humor falls flat once in a while. For the most part, however, the series is engaging and entertaining. Amy and Nigel remain endearingly awkward in the face of alternately clueless and eccentric characters—most notably therapist Dr. Jouda, who uses interpretive dance and animal roleplay as regular therapy methods.
Some of the most hilarious moments arise when the mockumentary pokes fun at cultural stereotypes and the people who believe them. For example, Amy goes on a blind date with an American guy who insists on speaking to her in patronizingly exaggerated English and pseudo-Japanese phrases (“Chewbacca Nai!”) because he refuses to believe that she speaks English. She later discovers that her Finnish assistant accidentally typed “gook-liking” instead of “good-looking” in her online personal ad.
Like many experiments, Rider’s first foray into webseries production gets off to an unsteady start and is a bit slow to pull the viewer in; but as the series progresses, the characters draw our sympathy and amusement as they navigate the dangerous waters of the dating world.