“Fresh Off the Boat” as a TV show aims to represent Asian American perspectives, stereotypes and struggles involving urbanization. Recounted through the life story of Eddie Huang, much of the show is a bittersweet and somewhat surreal look at how Asian American families attempted to adapt to American culture and lifestyles while also battling to keep their own cultural heritage and values alive and well in their family. It is an interesting and unique outlook on the experience that many immigrant families share in their own equally unique and challenging ways.
A bit of critique: the show unfortunately proliferates certain Asian stereotypes because it deviates from the original story from Huang’s book to fit the ABC network’s standards. For example, Huang’s memoir recounts a very masculine and impressive father figure, whereas the TV show emasculates his father to appear more appeasing to the Caucasian characters in the show. I find this relevant in how it challenges the authenticity of the message that Eddie Huang is attempting to relay to the audience by becoming convoluted through censorship by biased parties beyond his control. This again shows how the entertainment industry proliferates certain stereotypes, makes generalizations to forgo the deeper complexities and real sociopolitical and cultural issues at the heart of these interactions.
These perspectives, both authentic through Eddie Huang’s work and “whitewashed” through corporate media censorship, reveal certain dichotomies which exist through the misunderstanding of each others’ cultures and the misappropriation of their qualities in the show through oversimplified tropes and active stereotyping, as a means of ethnic differentiation.
The real question to grapple with, however, is whether or not these various analyses of perspectives are relevant to the core message of the show, and if so, what is it? Is it really to represent Asian American culture in an accurate manner? Can we trust that it’s accurate? Or, is it a standalone trying to attain a more individual agenda specific to the author’s experience and thoughts? Of course the show cannot possibly accurately and simultaneously represent the whole of Asian Americans all its own, and happens to focus on Chinese American culture and values due to Huang’s ethnicity, but still it is a reflection of the many perspectives shared and created by various groups in addressing others with which they have little experience or understanding. Certainly, it has left me with many questions, and has provided some intense moments. It certainly challenges many of the stereotypes that are believed by a significant portion of the population, and creates greater visibility for the Asian Americans and Asian American culture.