Thoughts on Fresh Off the Boat

I’ve got something to say about Fresh off the Boat.

First of all, I’m not JUST watching it because it’s the first network show starring an Asian American family since 1994. That caught my attention, sure, but I need more than political reasons to watch a show.

For example, a large part of me really wanted to watch Selfie to support a show that cast an Asian male in a romantic lead (which NEVER happens), but I couldn’t. Because the show looked so bad.  FOB on the other hand actually looks funny. And, more importantly, it takes place in my favorite decade (the 90s) and the main character is obsessed with B.I.G. and Nas. How could I not give it a chance?

That all said, let’s be real. Minorities in books, movies and TV is my favorite topic on this blog. Here are my thoughts on FOB:

1. There will be growing pains, and that’s OK. This is the first time we’ve seen an Asian-American family on TV since the one season of All American Girl (starring Margaret Cho) 20 years ago (wait, was that 20 years ago?!). That means there are going to be growing pains. By growing pains, I mean moments when nice people say things that are really embarrassing for them.

For example, a journalist asked the FOB cast if he will get to see chopsticks in the show “or will it be more Americanized?” Another example of a “growing pain” is when Joe Biden described Obama as “articulate.” In both cases you’re just like, huh? And then you’re like “he-did-not-just-say-that.”

Growing pains outrage many, but not me, usually. I actually think they have value as long as the person wasn’t malicious. They force the conversations that communities have been having among themselves for years—decades—out into the open. They alleviate some ignorance. And, let’s face it, they’re also inevitable. If you’re going to start diversifying things that historically have not been diverse, expect to deal with some growing pains.

2. I don’t understand how they could not find an Asian-American person to write the show. Stuff like this annoys me. Like really annoys me. This is what should have been popping up all over my newsfeed instead of the chopsticks growing pain. It’s far more outrageous in my opinion.

Ok, the writer is a Persian-American whose experience as the child of immigrants informs her writing. Great, I’m not knocking her.

Buuuut, are you seriously trying to tell me that there was not one Asian person who could have written this show? You know, the one about the Asian-American experience?! Because if you are, I’m here to tell you that I don’t believe you. The assertion that a qualified Asian American didn’t exist for this position is impossible.

Literally, impossible.

Someone just didn’t care enough to find her. And I find that incredibly annoying. Why does it have to be a revolutionary thing for minorities to tell their own stories?

3. Unsurprisingly, the inspiration for the show isn’t completely happy with it. Eddie Huang wrote a memoir by the same name and sold the rights over to network TV. He agrees with me re: point number two and has a few other complaints as well.  In NY Magazine he says that ABC took his very specific, individual experience and turned it into a “universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans resembling moo goo gai pan written by a Persian-American who cut her teeth on race relations writing for Seth MacFarlane.” But he’s still glad the show is on TV.

I’m glad the show is on TV too (and not just because I got to hear BIG Poppa in the background). Holllerrr.

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