A “Fresh” Perspective

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Courtesy of ABC/Eric McCandless

Frances Wu, Asst. News Editor

While immigration is a hotly debated topic in the United States, it is rarely ever discussed from an Asian American’s point of view. ABC’s new show, “Fresh Off the Boat,” is based on Eddie Huang’s memoir. The show, set in the 1990s, follows a Taiwanese family after their move from Washington, D.C. to Orlando Florida, so that the father, Louis (Randall Park) can open a steak restaurant.

The show centers on the family’s struggles due to the move. For example, mother Jessica (Constance Wu) constantly worries about her children’s education and the restaurant’s profits, and eldest son Eddie (Hudson Yang) deals with his jealousy over the ease with which his younger brothers fit in at their new schools.

As an Asian American, I found that the entire show was extremely representative of my own childhood. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 90s as well, and while I’ve never had to explain to my mom that you can’t haggle at JCPenny, I completely understood the humor and found myself laughing hysterically throughout the entire 30-minute pilot episode.

“Fresh Off the Boat” represents the struggles of Asian Americans accurately, from mean comments about the way Chinese chow mein smells, to racially ignorant housewives giggling about how surprising it is that an Asian could speak English so fluently.

Not only does the show focus on racial prejudices against Asians, but it also gives great examples of Asian values, like education and family. One of the most popular stereotypes about Asians revolves around education, but rarely does anyone stop to think about why it is so important.

Just like how Louis moved to Orlando to chase the “American Dream” and spend his days cheerfully running his Wild West themed restaurant, many Asian parents immigrate to the U.S. to give their children better lives and bigger opportunities.
For them, the “American Dream” is comprised of successful children who are living happily and without financial struggles. For Asians, education paves the way to economic stability, an important element for a successful future. Diamond Bar, a community that’s saturated with Asian culture, is an accurate example of this.

However, the show doesn’t just focus on education. It also takes time to tackle the Asian stereotype of having high standards. For example, when the three sons receive straight A’s on their report cards, instead of celebrating, Jessica responds by creating afterschool lessons to further their education. In Asian culture, showing affection is achieved by demonstrating that you care enough to want something to improve.

Asian American culture is probably the least explored in Hollywood. “Selfie,” a recent ABC show, was the only TV show to have an Asian American (John Cho) star as the leading male character, and was cancelled before the first season had ended.

However, “Fresh Off the Boat” seems to be ending this streak of bad luck. The show portrays Asian American issues perfectly while simultaneously creating a humorous atmosphere that is sure to leave any audience in stitches.