Has the time come? After years of Dragon Lady, Fu Manchu, and Kung Fu master stereotypes, will we, Asian Americans, get something that doesn’t paint us as foreign beings from the distant lands of Asia? Will this Asian American based sitcom outline the struggles of Asian immigrants? Will Asian Americans be FINALLY accepted into Hollywood without any caveats? My answer is: *drumroll* ... Almost. The new series, Fresh Off the Boat, premiering on February 4th, is an achievement for Asians and Asian Americans, and is one of the first few steps of Asian Americans entering Hollywood as just Asian Americans, and not as household stereotypes. Although, Asian Americans have thrived in new media, especially YouTube, there has always been a “bamboo ceiling” in TV. The thought that white sells and color doesn’t has always lingered in old media; it’s kind of like the smell of rotten eggs or skunk spray or fish or another thing that stinks up the place and needs to be gone. There have always been a few better-scented candles like Everybody Hates Chris or Blackish, but the scent still lingers. Hopefully, with Fresh Off the Boat, we are at the point where the stink is receding and progress has been made; Fresh Off the Boat may serve as a bridge to a new future of Asian Americans in TV. It is NOT the Holy Grail or the end all, be all solution to white TV.
“People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network’s approach to pacifying them is to say we’re all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit 'em with the soy. Baking soya, I got baking soya!”
“They haven’t seen us.” Fresh Off the Boat is something radical, like changing form regular milk to soy, but not too radical, like changing from steak to stinky tofu; the goal of Fresh off the Boat is to give something that the average American can swallow, without causing anger, panic, or “a yellow scare.” When we watch the show over the next few days, we will understand that it is not Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, but a more watered-down, “American” friendly ABC: Panda Express-style orange chicken Fresh Off the Boat. It is how it is, but it IS progress. Fresh Off the Boat is the first pill given to medicate American ignorance and to start research for a cure. For now, it’s time to get some popcorn and watch for any side effects.
Before I leave you to your own thoughts and wild imaginations, I want to talk about the tweet from the ABC Fresh off the Boat account: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B8j4CF_IcAM4jnH.png:large
Eddie Huang tweeted back:
"This is plain offensive and ridiculous”
"Someone please reverse this... at least they didn't do the Native American with chicken pox blankie lol"
"Point isn't whether we in fact wear kufis and rice hats but it's reductive"
Although, this could have been a publicity stunt to create buzz about the upcoming show, it is racist, offensive, and ridiculous. There’s simply no excusable reason on why this should have been posted. Right now, it’s causing a stir of anxiety, nervousness, and fear for show supporters, since it could possibly lower views and simply group Fresh off the Boat as a “racist comedy.” We are biting our nails, crossing our fingers, and knocking on wood, hoping that the premiere does well.
All and all, I’m excited for the show and hope that everyone gives the show a chance.