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“Fresh Off the Boat”: It’s About Damn Time

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that this week I was SUPER EXCITED for the new show Fresh Off the Boat.

I actually do not cover this show for Entertainment Weekly. I am just damn excited for it on my own. (Though I DO cover The Musketeers and Veronica Mars, if you would like to read up on those, shameless plug)

Why? Because it’s the first show in over 20 years to star an Asian American family on network TV since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl came out in 1994.

Seriously? It’s taken TWENTY years for America to be ok with seeing an Asian American family on TV again?

Sure there have been Asian actors that have had major roles in TV shows.

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John Cho

Yunjin Kim, Daniel Dae Kim, Naveen Andrews

Ken Jeong

Mindy Kaling

Those were just some notable examples. But while Asians have starred in TV shows, there’s only been one show on network TV that stars an entire Asian American family. Which is insane considering that Asians make up 5.3% of the U.S. population. I mean are we STILL that foreign to you?

The only other Asian family I have seen in a TV show over the past few years was Sullivan and Son which featured an interracial family (and coincidentally starring the same mom from All American Girl) where cultures are blended. But that as on TBS and sadly it got canceled last year.

Why did I love the first two episodes of FOB so much? First off, it was actually REALLY funny. And it’s funny right from the beginning and not like Selfie funny where all the better writing happens right before the show gets canceled. Second, the acting so far is great. Constance Wu, who plays the mom, is hilarious and is pretty much my mother. She’s a tiger mom yes (it’s not a stereotype, if you grew up with parents who immigrated to the US, they really are like this) but she also loves her boys and she plays it well. The dad is great too (really the Bill Pullman scene is funny because it’s true) and the boys are adorable.

Also if you’re trying to place where you might have seen Randall Park who plays Eddie’s dad:

Finally, because I could relate so much to Eddie’s character. The story is just like my family with three boys instead of the three girls. The feeling of wanting to assimilate to find my own identity. Being teased because I was different. Being called ethnic slurs. I can’t begin to tell you how many times the scene when Eddie gets called a “chink” has happened to me just liked that when I was growing up. And I’m SO glad that was shown because yeah, this stuff actually happens. The show is not racist or stereotyped because for many Asian Americans: THIS ALL HAPPENED TO US. As long as the show does not go into stock Asian characterization, this should be a breakthrough as more diversity needs to happen on TV because….it happens in REAL LIFE.

I know I’ve been going on a diversity kick lately on my blog but that’s because it’s something that is very important to me. I’ve grown up for years trying to be like everyone else and wanting to be like everyone else because that was what surrounded to me and what was presented to me as the ideal. But then this dialogue from the pilot episode made so much sense:

  • Eddie: Why aren’t chicks giving me soda? Emery: You want it too much.

Ah truth.

I’m not the one one who really enjoyed the first two episodes as ratings were pretty darn good and most of the reactions I’ve seen have been mainly positive. This Buzzfeed article explains everything. Everything is truth, especially 4 and 8. Even if you aren’t Asian, if you’ve ever felt like you wanted to fit it but you stand out because of cultural differences, I think you’ll enjoy the show. And even if you didn’t, I still think you will.

Asian American families. WE DO EXIST. And now the whole country will know.

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Being different has made me more aware

One of my goals for 2015 is to read more diversely. This is something that has been brought to my attention after reading several articles on Book Riot about this very topic.

Most of the authors that I read were white (white women to be specific) and therefore almost all the books I read had white main characters in them. Growing up the majority of my friends were white and therefore I wanted to be white too. I wanted to have brown or blonde hair, lighter skin, and blue eyes. I even wanted freckles. I also wanted a last name that people could easily pronounce. I used to want to just blend in with everyone instead of being the one that always stuck out. I hated that someone could just reference “the Asian girl” and it almost always meant me. It’s refreshing to know though that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

The thing is, as awful as all that sounds, it’s made me become so much more aware today than I think most people are.

Sadly I know a lot more prejudice and racism that my white friends will luckily never experience. I’ve been called names, made fun of, and heard so many jokes about features of myself that I can never change. It’s hard also seeing depictions of my race and culture constantly being made fun of in media and entertainment. While I can take and make a cultural joke, it’s also really hard to hear and see truly derogatory insults on a regular basis.

I do feel like I see the world differently than most of my friends. Unless they go out of their comfort zone and do some traveling, it will be very likely they will ever feel like the minority. I don’t know think they know what it’s like to sit down and see you’re the only one in a sea of similar people. And it’s probably hard to understand why I would not want to be myself and be like them instead. You can learn to understand this more if you marry into the culture but at the same time, it’s still really hard to understand what I go through.

I’m not saying all this to play up any race cards or make anyone feel guilty. I’m just trying to explain why I am in favor of learning more about diversity. In those Book Riot posts, it’s talked a lot how most books we read subconsciously are written by white authors and also about white characters. It is what sells. Just like the writers in the post, I too got very excited any time there was a character in a book that looked like me. Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club was my favorite character because she was the only Asian girl and therefore I could relate to her. Mulan is my favorite Disney princess because she looked like me. I have always been disappointed that there was only one Asian American Girl historical doll, Ivy, and even then she’s the sidekick friend and not the main doll but even then, it’s exciting because hey, she looks like me! But these are exceptions to the rule and not the norm sadly.

I’d love for more people to become more culturally diverse. I can’t force or make anyone else learn or understand this. But I can do it for myself in books I choose to read. And it’s helping me to see the world a lot differently in a good way.