Unless you have been living under a rock or don’t believe in streaming, you would have heard of this different new American show called ‘Fresh Off The Boat’. The show is based on the memoir of the same name by Taiwanese born, American raised Eddie Huang, he now runs a restaurant but has dabbled as a writer/blogger, lawyer, TV Host, comedian and Marijuana dealer (Take THAT Asian career stereotypes!). Eddie is an Asian kid growing up in Middle class America, trying desperately to fit it and using hip hop, black people shoes and white people food to do it. The result is hilarious, quick witted jokes and pee your pants laughter.
Before I watched an episode I made some assumptions…
It would try and fail hard to poke fun at Asian and American culture or that it would be too one sided portraying Americans as dumb white people or Asians as people who didn’t have a clue about western culture and refused to “fit in”.
So far though, I think she show has done a great job and poking fun equally at everyone on the show, nobody gets out alive and the great thing is, even if you wouldn’t say some of these things out loud, you know you have probably thought it to yourself at one time or another because they are kinda true.
“Sometimes you have to spend money you don’t have to make it seem like you have money that you don’t spend.”
“Not only was I not white, to many people I wasn’t Asian either.”
“So … I did what every culture does when Americans can’t understand something, I put it on bread.”
“Which one says I’m rich enough to be invited but not rich enough that you can ask me to donate money?”
“Love you? My dad never said that, my family loved each other we just didn’t say it. We showed our love through criticism and micromanagement, so if you said love you, you were probably hiding something”
“I’m sorry. My son just got straight A’s and I told my wife I love her. We’re going through a rough patch.”
I think the show does a great job of explaining Chinese culture to a western audience, while being able to make fun of themselves.
A lot of people have been offended by the title or jumped to conclusions based on it and that is something I can identify with. The amount of backlash I got for the post “Asian Men Don’t By Flowers” was pretty amusing, yes I have been lucky to have since received flowers from Asian men and if you read beyond the post title you would see that it wasn’t as simple as that. HOWEVER, it was meant to grab your attention, click on it, read it and hopefully subscribe – the same way this show is supposed to grab your attention, give it 10 minutes of your time to see what a great show it is and become a lifelong fan that will go on a rampage if the show is cancelled (yep, I will lead the revolt).
I have heard people complain that the father in the series played by Randall Park is Korean, so how can he accurately portray a Chinese man? Well if he can play Kim Jong Un then he can play anyone!
We can pick apart the show as much as we want but you can’t please everyone and I think this is a huge breakthrough in western entertainment.
I once had a conversation with a friend and I brought up the fact that I felt Asians tend to prefer their cliques, they only had Asian friends, ate Asian food and spoke Asian languages and as a white person, I found it near impossible to penetrate the Asian cliques. If I managed that, I was the token white girl, I was constantly defined by the colour of my skin, not invited to “Asian” events like authentic restaurants that served organs and entrails, K Pop concerts or Asian nightclubs. I almost felt like the pity friend.
The response? “But isn’t Hollywood the same thing, a clique for white people?”
Light bulb moment!
Yes it is, leading actors are usually Caucasian with the occasional African American or Asian actor managing to break through, only to be the first to be murdered in slasher flick, or the weird exchange student, the kung fu master in the coming of age story (calm down, nobody is bashing Mr Miyagi) or the villain in a spy movie.
Fresh Off The Boat is breaking that stereotype. Just as it would be strange to see a TV show in China with the main cast being Caucasians, this is a new experience for western audiences to see a television show where the ensemble is Asian. And if you can’t poke fun at yourself, you will probably have a pretty depressing life regardless of your ethnicity.
Korean, Chinese, or American born Asian – does it really matter who is playing who or if they are a “real Asian” or not? If you want things to change and stop playing the minority card, you have to embrace attempts to change it and Fresh Off The Boat is doing exactly that.
And its dam funny too!
In the past few months we have had our first Asian Cleo Bachelor of the Year, the funny and modern TV take on My Fair Lady “Selfie” with the awesome John Cho playing the lead male and love interest to a Caucasian red head. Unfortunately Selfie was cancelled during it’s first season which is a shame because the fact that John was Asian, was mentioned only a handful of times – it wasn’t meant to be a show about intercultural relationships – it was a show about an uptight career obsessed introvert who took on a project to help ditzy but loveable social media obsessed woman rebuild herself after being humiliated…. They just happened to be played by a Caucasian woman and a Korean man, yes those sitcom babies would have been adorable and I’m sure the differences in culture would have been explored with hilarious outcomes but it’s worth watching and is paving the way for Asians in western entertainment. It also said a mouthful about today’s obsession with social media, the constant need for validation, attention and concern over what others think.
I hope we do get to a point where we aren’t as shocked to see an Asian actor in a movie, not only would it make it much enjoyable for me but I think it will also help to open peoples minds a little.
You can find Eddie Huangs blog here