In Season 2, Episode 6 of Fresh off the Boat, we encounter an interesting situation that we’ve been studying all quarter: Asian American representation in the media. In this episode, Louis tackles his local tv station, Good Morning Orlando. In it, we see how Louis’ attempts to further promote his restaurant, Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse, turns into a comedic bit when he impersonates celebrities. Although it got many people chuckling, it was Jessica who found his humor dry and offensive, referencing Long Duk Dong from the iconic 1984 film, Sixteen Candles.
I don’t want to go more into the show just because you’ll see every blog for this synopsize the episode, but this is a very profound issue within Fresh Off the Boat that seriously needs to be highlight, underlined, CAPS, and engrained into every person’s mind.
Asian American representation in the media has always been what Louis accented in the episode: our roles equate to some form of comedic relief. And that’s just it: to everyone, Asian Americans are supposed to be the butt of the joke. A perfect allusion to Long Duk Dong, Louis perpetuates the stereotypes and reinforces the notion that Asian American roles have always been cast so that we sprinkle and support the humor and inevitably perpetuate the underlying racism towards the API community.
Jessica’s role in and of itself was not only important, but it is extremely poignant. She carries a sentiment that many Asian Americans carry, that we are more than just the side character, the minor role, casted to steer the humor. Louis’ realization of this flaw also serves as an important dynamic within the show’s context because it shows how there is an eventual acknowledgement to use the opportunity of being on television to expose and represent the API minority community in a positive, non-alienating light.
Additionally, its translation on the screen is powerful: a shift towards minorities freely representing themselves past the stereotypes that the white, hegemonic society expects us to fulfill. At the end, Louis understands that he can use his humor in a way that doesn’t perpetuate these stereotypes as well as taking the agency away from the dominant culture to express and represent his community and identity in a positive, empowering way.
In closing, this episode was really great within the whole show in general. I felt like it was a microcosm of the show’s overall purpose: to use the outlets of media, which is controlled by the white, hegemonic culture, and reclaim it in such as a way that we can represent ourselves on our own terms and that humor can actually be funny without having to play on the generalization that APIs are typically cast to play.