Week 1 Blog by Danny Truong

The UCSB Fall 2015 semester has started and I have already went to my first class of Asian American Studies 118. Transferring in from Santa Barbara City College, this was essentially my first time with the class system at UCSB. I was understandably nervous, since I have heard many horror stories involving how ridiculously hard UCSB was and was mentally preparing myself for the possibly difficulty at UCSB. I had all the textbooks already since I looked up which textbooks I would need and ordered them online. Class at Santa Barbara City College had already started 6 weeks prior, and it could only mean that the classes at UCSB were going to be much faster and harder than anything I have experienced thus far.
To my pleasant surprise though, the Professor, Genevieve Erin O’Brien was rather relaxed and didn’t seem to fit my expectations of an overbearing professor. She made a number of jokes as she spoke, and since it was the first day, it was only an introduction day, where she introduced the Syllabus to the class and how the class is organized. My rather nervous expectations were mostly unfounded, since the scheduling looked very similar to Santa Barbara. The Syllabus had all the usual materials for a school like: Exam Percentages and how many there are, Overview of the class, required textbooks for the Class, a requirement to post to a blog every week, and a few surprising things.
The First surprising thing in the Syllabus is a warning saying that there would be potentially explicit content displayed in class. This is understandable considering the content of the Class. Despite being an Asian American studies class, many of the topics that could potentially be discussed (such as racism and stereotypes) can be applied to just about any other Ethnic Group. I applaud the fact that the class is willing to going into such topics in the first place. This is a University level class; it needs to go into rather offensive material in order to educate its students. The students are adults now; they have the maturity level to handle this type of material. Not only that, keeping the issue covered defeats the purpose of the class. Like any other ethnic studies class, one of the goals of the class is to increase awareness of the xenophobic reactions people had (and possibly still have in the world). By increasing awareness, people can realize the real issues of discrimination and can take action against it.
The Second surprising thing was how we, the students, were supposed to watch a TV series known as “Fresh Off the Boat”. It isn’t even an educational TV program like I was expecting. Not only that, O’Brien expected us to watch the entire first season over the weekend (since it was a Thursday). It wasn’t a problem since each episode is only 30 minutes long and there were only 13 episodes. Something that could be easily binged watched over the weekend. However, it is likely understandable why O’Brien asked us to watch it. From what she said in the classroom it seemed like some sort of story based on a family of Asian Americans. Just how specifically, I had yet to see the show so I don’t know. This is actually quite a brilliant way to show how Asian Americans are depicted in media. Stereotypes are frequently exaggerated in media to differentiate all the ethnic groups being depicted in the show. Just by watching the stereotypes in action would give us a good idea just what the Asian stereotypes are. O’Brien even told us “First watch it normally, then watch with a highly critical eye”. This is important too. In everyday media, people watch them to enjoy them, not to look for some deep philosophical arguments. Because of this, many potential stereotypes are used and the audience doesn’t even consciously notice them. I expected it to be a very similar experience to when I watched the Matrix film in my philosophy class, where we were supposed to look for the philosophers being mentioned in the film. And to my surprise, the names of the various philosophers and philosophical ideas that went over my head the first time I watch the movie, I noticed them and they were pretty predominant, so I expect the “Fresh off the Boat” experience to be the same.

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