Tag Archives: Fresh Off The Boat

Photo Credit: Miyan Levenson

In Conversation: Fresh Off The Boat

by Kendra James

WNYC was kind enough to invite us here at the R to their screening and talkback of ABC’s new sitcom Fresh Off The Boat, based on Eddie Huang’s memoir of the same name. After screening episodes 3 and 4, Jeff Yang (Wall Street Journal Columnist and father of the show’s star, Hudson Yang) led a discussion of the show, its themes, and its importance featuring vlogger Jay Smooth,  rapper Awkwafina, and author Amy Chua.

While I captured snippets of the conversation in our livetweet from The Greene Space last night, it’s worth watching the entire video of the discussion embedded below. With  some of the points made focusing  on the series’ third episode, it may even be beneficial to wait until both episodes air tonight on ABC.  I particularly appreciated the debate centered around (the character) Eddie’s relationship with hip-hop and whether or not it’s yet been fleshed out to make it seem more than shallow. The show’s use of Hip-hop as a seemingly permanent status as a punchline rather than a cultural and social movement to be taken seriously has been for me, in an age of Iggy Azalea, harder to see as humorous instead of appropriative.

The Q&A session prompted great questions (“not diatribes!” Jeff Yang requested) including one about the accents and presence of Mandarin in the show, and a question about the use of slurs during the first episode. For a brief recap before tonight’s episodes air, check out our Storify of the event below.

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Dropping Anchor: The Racialicious Review of The Fresh off the Boat Pilot

By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong

Hudson Yang (center) and the cast of ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat.”

The plot for Fresh off the Boat is a classic “fish out of water” scenario. Eddie (Hudson Yang) is a 12-year-old Taiwanese-American, who moves from a diverse, city neighborhood in Washington, D.C. to a mostly white, suburban neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. His family consists of two younger brothers, a grandmother, stressed out mother Jessica (Constance Wu), and flustered father Louis (Randall Park), who wants to open a successful, Western-themed barbecue restaurant. Primarily, everyone’s just trying to fit in.

Jessica, for instance, takes up rollerblading with the neighborhood Stepford wives. This has great comedic potential- how does an Asian American woman clash with the expectations of privileged, suburban society? The Stepfords, to their credit, do not view Jessica as an intruder or an undesirable in their neighborhood – more so, they view her as a curiosity to be poked and prodded. It’s a nod to a more subtle type of racism that exists in the modern world. The term “racist” does not only encompass name calling and hate crimes — it encompasses passive discrimination, positive stereotypes, and microaggressions that, accumulated over time, can be comparably damaging.

The most interesting aspect of Fresh off the Boat is how it deals with Asian American masculinity. Each Asian male character has his own way of exploring it, and they each tend to do so through the lens of another ethnic identity, rather than their own. Louis, pursues the “cowboy” archetype, in an effort to bring more white folks into his restaurant. Eddie co-opts hip hop, black culture — he’s listening to Dre’s beats, quoting Biggie’s rhymes, and repping Nas’ Illmatic on his clothes. It’s illuminating.
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ABC’s “Fresh off the Boat” could be a disaster for Asian Americans

By Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Salon

I can’t speak for all Asian Americans, but personally, whenever I see a new Asian face on television, I panic. My blood pressure goes through the roof. There’s a vague unease and anxiety, even before the character opens his or her mouth. Because I’m ready to see yet another shticky Asian stereotype.

Some of the questions running through my mind: Is this Asian a main character? Does this Asian character have an arc? If the Asian character is a woman, does she have an Asian significant other? If the Asian character is a man, does he even have a significant other? Does this Asian man have sex, in a non-comedic fashion?

Or I worry that the Asian character is “too good” – an overcorrection for political correctness. There’s an ironic flaw to perfection – it doesn’t allow for the quirks that make a character compelling. Every American minority group has this stock, “perfect” caricature: for Asian Americans, it’s the Model Minority – the hardworking, emasculated genius. He’s the support for the protagonist, but never the protagonist himself.
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