It is difficult to understand any hardship without an accurate representation of the situation. The representation allows us as individuals to illustrate a complex situation that can be garnered as relatable to our own lives or be completely unrelatable at all. For an individual to be raised in a minority racial group puts them in a tough position to understand their own privilege because the society this individual may have been surrounded in has completely ignored to accurately represent what hardship looks like, since their minority racial group is not the majority of the population.
As an Asian-American who has witnessed multiple American television networks mock the type of hardships many minorities face, it is unbearable to understand that these big television industries would rather disregard the outcome from their mockery and become filthy rich, then to actually sympathize for these minority groups.
The first Asian American sitcom, Fresh Off the Boat, proves to challenge the many stereotypes and prejudices the Asian community faces in society. The fact that the first two episodes received approximately 7.94 million viewers provided an opportunity for this show to be the second highest-rated comedy premiere in 2015.
To provide a little background information, this show is based on Eddie Huang’s book, Fresh Off The Boat: A Memoir, where he discusses the type of experiences he and his Taiwanese family face during their move from Chinatown of Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. While Huang’s father is seizing the American dream to start a restaurant business, Huang’s mother is faced with the cultural hardship to learn how to adapt to a new environment that has a smaller Asian community. In addition, Eddie is confronted with several problematic situations at school.
Fresh Off the Boat not only portrays the first Asian American family to appear on an American television network but allows for viewers to understand in a comedic way the type of hardship these Asian Americans face and how they handle it. I am not saying that it is appropriate for television shows to address hardship through comedy, but moreover, that comedy seems to be the only form of communication to actually let people become aware of how hardship can be represented. Although this show is a comedy, it is based on a true man’s story in which he experienced much cultural hardship, stereotypes, and prejudices.
Here are some questions and answers I’ve thought about in relation to what type of impact this television show had on the Asian community.
Q: How does the main protagonist, Eddie Huang define his identity in a new school environment that disrespects his Asian culture?
A: Eddie Huang understands that not everyone will respect the cultural differences he has from the rest of his classmates because he knows no one can relate. However, he decides to use his cultural differences as an Asian American as an advantage in a school community that knows nothing about his culture. This is his method to gain popularity and a voice in the school without neglecting his Asian culture.
Q: How does Eddie Huang cope with the pressure from his parents of “staying” Asian American with the influences of American culture in his predominantly white suburban neighborhood?
A: Eddie accepts the fact that his parents will remain strict no matter what type of decisions he makes, but that does not stop Eddie from choosing what type of music to listen to or the type of clothes he will wear. The ability for him to listen to hip hop, become engaged with following NBA athletes’ statistics, and collecting hip-hop fashion provides Eddie the opportunity to freely express himself.
Q: How does this show relate to the type of hardships Asian American communities face within modern society?
A: Eddie Huang’s family much hardship that deal with not only cultural differences but learning to adapt to a new environment while facing stereotypes and prejudice. Their story represents how many Asian American households that immigrate from all over Asia to America, hoping to live the American dream, only to realize it is much harder than they expected. Many of these immigrant households fail to recognize that fighting against stereotypes and prejudices is okay. They are scared since they are in an unfamiliar territory and came all the way from their homeland for a better life. However, the Asian American family from Fresh Off the Boat highlights the importance of being vocally aggressive in terms of fighting against the common beliefs of racism Asians face.
Overall, this Asian American sitcom is a demonstration of how hardship that Asian American family faces can be represented. There are flaws in regards to how accurately representing these hardships may be without the use of exaggeration, but this comedic form of addressing these stereotypes and prejudices is the bridge between raising awareness and understanding from a victim’s perspective.