This week’s Halloween episode of Fresh Off the Boat raised a few points in my head. I really noticed a lot of assimilation factors with the Huang family especially with the dad and Halloween. It seems that this year, with their new suburban lifestyle, he really wants to get into the Halloween spirit despite his wife’s reservations. He even talks to the whole neighborhood (well all the white wives in the neighborhood..) about how he wants to revamp the neighborhood into a Halloween go-to. He explains that he wants the neighborhood to “trick people into thinking the neighborhood is a scary upper-class neighborhood.” It seems like in each episode, at least one of the characters struggles or attempts to be something they aren’t or they pretend to be someone they aren’t.
It’s interesting that the dad chooses to dress up as Mr. T, an African American actor. It is known in the show that Eddie idealizes African American musicians so him dressing up as Humpty Hump is not surprising to his character. But even the dad, in this Halloween episode, is dressed up as an African American. Why wouldn’t they choose to dress up as someone of their own race? Not that dressing up as someone they admire is an issue but it is interesting that the depiction in the show is not that they try to keep their racial pride but rather try to be like other races or other people.
Also, Eddie seems to want to take advantage of Halloween this year too. In Eddie’s realm of the show, race doesn’t seem to be as big of a factor at times. Even though his group is predominantly white, him and an African American boy are accepted as one of the group members and seemingly treated equally to the others.
The episode shows more of the aggressive, strict stereotype that Jessica portrays. She gets upset about neighborhood boys and even takes her belt off to combat her. It seems like her character is usually portrayed as bringing down the fun in the family. For example, in a past episode, she did not want to have a family vacation. And in this episode, she is not overwhelmingly interested in celebrating Halloween in their new neighborhood. Jessica struggles with her authority either in the family, the neighborhood, her job and in this episode with teenage neighbor boys. The fact that Jessica doesn’t dress up for Halloween just fits with her character not being fun and being uptight instead. This may make viewers believe that Asian American mothers are all work and no play. They may even believe that the divide between husband and wife in the show is typical to Asian American marriages.
There seems to be a theme of this divide in the family between the mom and the boys in the family. The mom seems to try and keep everyone grounded in their Asian American tradition, but the boys seem to shed the Asian part of this tradition.
However, like any ABC sitcom, the love of one’s family conquers all and in the end the whole family is on the same page and all the boy’s have the Jessica’s back. The question of whether Fresh off the Boat depicts many or any true aspects of an Asian American family in America is still not answered in my mind. It seems like the show still feeds off a lot of false stereotypes, good or bad and if not stereotypes maybe false non-racial and racial characteristics attributed to the family. The substance of race in the show is starting to confuse me more and more because it is not clear what is reality and what is “good television.”