A little girl with short, jagged bangs walks up to her boyfriend, stares at him for a moment, then punches him in the face.
"Ouch! What's that for?!!" he asks.
She replies, "That's for all the stupid shit you're gonna do in the future."
The blunt exchange is from Angry Little Girls, the adorably angst-y comic strip by Lela Lee. Ever since I was a shy, awkward high-school kid, I devoured the weekly series, which follows the struggles of an Asian-American third-grader named Kim. While cute as a Sanrio character, Kim is one sassy sista. When another little girl complimented her on her English skills, she fired back, "I was born here, you dumbass!" The cartoons—featured on T-shirts, wallets and tote bags—helped to empower a generation of girls that was taught to never cause a stir.
Now, Kim and her friends are getting their own TV show. Angry Little Asian Girl, which is scheduled to premiere Oct. 26 on MNET, is described as "South Park with an Asian attitude." Margaret Cho guest stars as Kim's overbearing immigrant mother.
For Lee, a television series had been a dream since the early days. "It's been a really long road," says the Los Angeles-based creator, who is Korean-American. "I'd been approached by different networks—FOX, the WB, Oxygen. One time, one of the networks asked me to take out the Asian girl. I said, 'Why would I even be here then?' I grew up not seeing any sort of Asian representation, and I was hungry to have a reflection of myself in pop culture."
The 12-episode series will center on Kim and her multicultural pals—Deborah, Maria, Wanda, Xyla, Pat and Kim's sometimes-boyfriend, Bruce—as they deal with "all sorts of annoying things," Lee says, including boyfriends, parents and racist idiots. Storylines range from anger management to fast-food-restaurant customer service to the Occupy movement.
Even as an adult, Lee finds it therapeutic to tap into the angst of youth. "Many people don't ever outgrow those feelings," she says. "It's sometimes easier to go back than to go forward."
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She hopes that through the show, the characters will strike a chord with a broader audience.
"I would just like [Angry Little Asian Girl] to become as known as Snoopy," Lee says. "I dunno. Small goals."