Fresh Off The Boat has been receiving hot and cold reviews, and with good reason. In “The Shunning,” we see Eddie try to impress and join the cool kids in school when he gets made fun of for wearing nurse’s shoes instead of Jordan’s. Eddie isn’t the only one who struggles as we see Jessica’s relationship with the rollerblading moms begin to crumble. Soon enough, Jessica befriends the neighborhood’s trophy wife, Honey, as they bond over Stephen King. Coincidentally, while listening to hip-hop Eddie comes to the realization that in order to gain cred with the kids at school, he needs to have a beautiful woman by his side, which he decides is his mother’s new friend. Jessica soon drops Honey when Louis tells her that she is hated by all the women in the neighborhood, and that her relationship with her new friend will negatively affect the already failing restaurant. When the family discovers that the neighborhood is throwing a NASCAR block party, Louis sees it as an opportunity to promote the restaurant, and Eddie sees it as a chance to impress his friends with Honey because of what he thinks is cool from hip-hop lyrics, but is really inappropriate. Jessica uses this party to reconcile her friendship with Honey when she realizes that the rollerblading moms are not as genuine towards her as Honey.
I have to say that this episode was horrible and uncomfortable to watch. It was just basically every scene from any other show you see today combined into one for sitcom purposes. Eddie Huang mentioned in an interview with Hollywood Reporter “how strange NASCAR is and gauging back onto family culture….We never cared about NASCAR… So that I couldn’t relate to.” This episode was so generic and everything is played out. It’s the same old story about a woman choosing between which friendship matters more: fitting in or having a real friend. Eddie’s story was just uncomfortable to watch, because you’re literally watching a young boy spray Capri-Sun on an older women. If that was meant to be funny and sexy, it totally wasn’t. This was supposed to be more of a coming-of-age lesson for Eddie. Other than that, there was nothing in this episode that an Asian American could relate to. I wasn’t impressed.
The second episode of the again two-part airing, “Success Perm,” it is all about the sibling rivalry between siblings and in-laws. Jessica’s sister and family come to visit the Huang family to see whether or not they are doing well financially. Eddie is excited as he gets to reunite with his cousin, Justin, who introduced him to hip-hop. As the episode progresses, we see Uncle Steve and Louis competing with one another as to whose business is more successful, while Jessica and her sister compete for their mother’s affection with who can get the most bargains. We also see Eddie and Justin’s relationship drift apart, as Justin is now into grunge.
If this episode doesn’t define what it’s like when you have relatives (or guests in general) coming over, then I don’t know what does. It is definitely typical to see an Asian family cleaning their home and making it as nice and spotless in appearance as possible when family comes over. I remember making room for relatives to have a place to sleep, but never having to go into the pantry or closet. It was mainly about seeing how many people you can cram into a room (diving the men and women, of course). Also, the grandmother’s assuming that every African American man was OJ Simpson is very typical in an Asian American family. Whether it be grandparents or parents, there was a time when mine referred to my friends by their race rather than their names. It wasn’t to be racist or to be in the same vein of ‘all Asians look the same,’ but it was simpler for them to remember ethnic backgrounds rather than names. I absolutely enjoyed this episode, and felt it was much more relatable than where “The Shunning” had jumped off the wrong boat entirely.
The series can be great as long as it sticks to Eddie’s story and experiences rather than trying to make a sitcom that can reach an extensive audience. Asian Americans are proud of their culture, and it’s important to maintain authenticity, which Eddie Huang usually provides. Anyone can relate to the circumstances despite specific Asian American tendencies and details without the need to copy bland plot points. Give America a little credit to understand! There’s hope for tonight’s episode, “Persistent Romeo,” so long as the sexual content steers away from Capri-Sun-spraying and back towards the wholesome coming-of-age idea.
Fresh Off The Boat airs Tuesdays at 8/7c.
Written by guest author Jaime Nguyen.