Fresh Off the Boat Screening a Sucess!

For the first time, there it was on screen: seven years of my life playing out, in the form of a Chinese Learning Center in ABC’s new comedy Fresh Off the Boat. The synchronicity of the laughter at the  APASA screening proved why this show made waves long before it was released.

Fresh off the Boat stars Randall Park and Constance Wu in leading roles and is based off of the life of Chef Eddie Huang. Not since Margaret Cho’s All American-Girl in 1994 have we seen an Asian-American family sitcom on network television, and rarely do we ever see a show where the majority of protagonists are Asian-American and portrayed as human beings with depth. The show depicts Eddie’s Taiwanese family moving from Washington, D.C. to Orlando and experiencing a wide variety of issues, ranging from the father’s running a financially successful steakhouse to the children’s enduring the dreaded Chinese Learning Center problem sets.IMG_4122

The situations are vaguely satirical in their strong stereotypes, although they ring true, if a bit exaggerated, for the most part. For example, the parents have distinct accents and the children follow strict studying schedules as their neighboring Caucasian friends are rewarded for relative academic mediocrity. Wu responded to the criticism of the stereotypical portrayal in an interview with Time magazine, stating “Stereotypes are only dangerous when they are used as the butt of the joke, and our writers have taken great care to never write a single joke that is based upon a stereotype.” She goes on to clarify the accents portrayed on the show, saying that a lack of accents would be a greater injustice as a diluted misrepresentation of the Asian-American population.

In my opinion, the comedic nature of the show emphasizes the fact that the humorous, exaggerated idea many hold of Asian-Americans is just that: hilariously unbelievable. As an individual who typically would be offended by a limiting portrayal of Asian-Americans, I have no gripe with the way the characters are portrayed: let’s face it, if the family were shown to undervalue education and celebrate wastefulness, I don’t think I (or many of my peers) could connect with the show.

APASA members, almost 60 strong, gathered in Willy’s Pub to view the pilot episode and munch on popcorn, Pocky, lychee jellies and other Asian snacks. The sense of community in the room was apparent—regardless of whether one was Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese or even South Asian like me. About 35 people entered or stayed for the second episode.

There was something strange and alluring about seeing your childhood on television; it’s only once you see it that you realize how little contact mainstream media has had with your culture. APASA is proud to have been a part of this moment of breakthrough of the Asian-American community into media and glad to have seen so many come out to our showing. Let’s hope the diversity on television and viewers’ cultural imagination continue to grow!IMG_4096

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