Fresh Off the Boat: From an “Outsider’s” Perspective

This week, the class finished watching the first season of “Fresh Off The Boat”, the first primetime sitcom to star an all Asian American family as the protagonists since 1994. Apart from being a comedy, the show is also instrumental in revealing social issues that members of the Asian American community experience while growing up and living in America.

Personally, I do not share many, if any at all, of the experiences encountered by Eddie and the rest of his family. I’m a white male, who grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of suburban America. Because of my upbringing, I could not truly connect with the characters and the issues they faced, but luckily the show does a very good job of accurately portraying the issues to the viewers, so I’m able to understand how they felt, and what they were thinking. Regardless, I still couldn’t fully connect to the show in ways that an Asian American viewer who has shared similar experiences does. Some of the jokes went right over my head, and the experiences felt by the Huang family never hit close to home. However, I was extremely lucky to be able to watch the show with my roommate, Jackson, who is an Asian American. Jackson shares Korean and Argentinian heritage, and grew up in a similar lifestyle as the Huang family. Any time I didn’t understand a joke, or if he shared a personal experience with the characters, he’d tell me and fully explain what it was like to be in a family similar to the show’s characters. He told stories of what it was like to have a mom similar to Jessica Huang, who is very over-bearing, or what it was like to have people make fun of your lunch at school.

Through Jackson, I was able to realize how truly great of a job this show is at portraying an Asian-American family and the hardships they face. Knowing that the issues raised by the show are more than part of the comedic effect, makes me truly appreciate the great job done by Nahnatchka Khan and the rest of the production staff. Although I might not fully connect to or understand the experiences faced by the Huang family, knowing that the issues are real and present makes for a more satisfying learning and viewing experience.

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