Last Wednesday, ABC premiered their new sitcom Fresh Off The Boat roughly based on Chef Eddie Huang’s memoir. It is the first time in over twenty years that a show has starred an all Asian-American family since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl. There has been plenty of controversy and opinion stirring prior to the show’s debut due to Huang voicing his opinions about the production and the message that the show fails to depict about his experience growing up as a Taiwanese-American, but so far, it seems to be on target of what it’s like to grow up in an Asian-American household.
Fresh Off The Boat takes place in 1995, and tells the story of an 11 year old, Eddie Huang (Hudson Yang), a boy with a love for hip-hop, embarking on a journey from Washington D.C’s Chinatown to the white suburbs of Orlando, Florida, with his two brothers, Emery (Forrest Wheeler) and Evan (Ian Chen), along with parents Jessica (Constance Wu) and Louis (Randall Park). Upon settling in Orlando, Louis opens a steakhouse called Cattleman’s Ranch, which he hopes will stabilize the family financially, and help them finally fit in with American society. While his mother Jessica, was against leaving a place where she felt most at home and where their culture lies, she follows her husband’s dream to Florida. The move is tough on Eddie as he has to adjust to the new school and attempt to make new friends, while his brothers seem to be easily accepted. Louis attempts to attract customers by hiring white employees, and Jessica forces herself to join the group of rollerblading wives and mothers to fit into the community.
Growing up, I had a different experience from Eddie (given that I was born in the early nineties), but I could see where he was coming from. I grew up in a community where I was part of the majority as an Asian-American. I wasn’t judged by my ethnicity or the food I brought to school; it was more welcomed. I never really had to try to “fit in” and be “normal.” During the beginning of my teen years, I too had to move with my family to a new place where Asians weren’t the majority, but a minority. I found myself trying to be included with the small groups of Asian-Americans rather than the non-Asians, because that’s what I was comfortable with. That’s what I had known all my life. I couldn’t find myself trying to “fit in” with the new majority demographic.
Part two of the premiere focuses on how family shows love through actions rather than words, and Jessica’s effort to be in control of the restaurant’s operations and financially stability, as well as the children’s education. Let’s just say it brought out the stereotypical Asian mom. The two lines in this episode that pretty much sum up for me: Eddie says, “Love you? …My family loved each other. We just didn’t say it. We showed our love through criticism and micromanagement,” and Louis’ father/son talk to Eddie, “Your mom is tough. And she’s never gonna let up on you or any of us, but it’s because she cares.” This episode definitely hits home because I don’t remember the last time anyone in the family has straight out said “I love you” to one another. We’ve always shown how we love and care for one another through our actions, whether it be buying something we see when we’re out shopping or buying food to caring for one another when we’re sick. We also constantly criticize one another and everything we do. I mean, ladies, how many times has your mother or relatives called you “fat” whether or not you are? I’ve yet to meet an Asian that has not experienced that. When Jessica decided to do an at-home Chinese Learning Center, that was the definition of my mom. I remember asking her for help on my math homework as a kid, and ending up with countless amount of problems to do and a long lesson on the subject.
This show is definitely something Asian-Americans can relate to, but at the same time, the experiences all depend on where and what time period an individual grew up in. Like I said, the first episode wasn’t something I could relate to as much, but the second definitely hit home as it’s something you see in most Asian-American families, if you grew up in one.
Fresh Off The Boat airs Tuesdays at 8/7c.
Written by guest author Jaime Nguyen.