Suey Park about the new ABC sitcom, Fresh Off the Boat based off of the book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang. After watching the trailer released by ABC, she addressed the show’s several shortcomings including: a criminal misrepresentation of the Chinese and Taiwanese community (by the use of Korean American actors), the manipulation of the term “Asian” to erase heterogeneity between cultures, an immigrant stereotype perpetuating premise, and the use of FOB as an identifier when it is clearly used against immigrant poc. (x,x,x,x,x,x)
What’s stupid is I’m pretty sure Koreans are Asian too right? How is that a problem, they do look a lot alike as a community what the hell is this how’s problem ?
You’re right while we’re at it we should replace 80% of white actors in Hollywood with giant expired containers of molded ass cottage cheese y’all look a lot alike as a community anyway
When I read a ton of posts cheering that there was finally a show featuring an Asian family on prime time, I thought it was going to be an amazing trailer. Then I watched it.
That trailer made me feel so uncomfortable - especially the part where they have the black kid call the main character a “chink”.
This is something that I’ve been noticing a lot on television. When a show has to deal with racism, they always address the issue through another person of color because portraying a white person as racist seems to make writers and audiences uncomfortable.
This recently happened on Glee when Sam said a slew of ignorant and problematic things about his black girlfriend, Mercedes, in front of her black friends. When Mercedes began to worry about dating a white boy as a result, it was made to look like she was the racist party… ???
And now here, you have a black boy telling the main character that since he was the low man on the totem pole before, he’s eager to pass on the torch to the new man of color in town and perpetuate racism… Okay then.
It just rubs me the wrong way - on top of all the other awful stereotypical representations of Chinese and immigrant people in that trailer.
I didn’t laugh once.
Z and I just talked about the trailer on the new ep of the podcast (going up tomorrow hopefully!) These are valid things that I hadn’t entirely considered, especially the problematic aspect of Korean American actors representing the Chinese/Taiwanese diaspora. I hadn’t previously known about this. I’m still open to seeing the show and watching it, as it will be interesting to see where it goes buuuuuut it doesn’t seem like it’s going to have a good start.
Rewatching the trailer I’m still excited that there is finally a sitcom featuring an Asian family, but I don’t want that to be at the expense of just laughing and pointing at them for being “immigrants.”
k unlike suey park i’m not gonna pretend like my opinions are in any way representative for all asian americans, because like she mentioned, asiams are a heterogeneous population in the united states who have exceptionally varied experiences, languages, cultures, and immigration patterns/history
i’m a first (not a second~) generation asian american from beijing who lived in beijing until i was five. my first language was mandarin, and i only moved here because that’s where my parents were working and we wanted to be together. i lived, for most of my high school years, in a largely east and south asiam community populated largely by first and second generation immigrants who often used ‘fob’ not as a point of ridicule of our parents (because i think most of us at least were aware of the sacrifices our parents had made to raise us in the states) but as a point of pride and as the foundation for community. fob can totally be something denigrating towards other asians, especially those who haven’t assimilated into white america, but it doesn’t have to be.
jose antonio vargas (filipino american) asserts that its offensiveness rests on who’s saying it and what their intentions are while jeff yang (later in the same article; chinese american) mentions that
When my generation used FOB, it used to be to distance ourselves (we who were born here) from those who weren’t. When more recent nerds use the term “fob,” it seems to be more to create or reinforce a connection with the person marked with the term, e.g., to actively embrace the fact that our community is not “just” American. At least, that’s what the Wus [the creators of MyMomisaFob.com and MyDadisaFob.com] and Eddie seem to be doing.
it’s also worth noting that the writer of the memoir, eddie huang, doesn’t seem to be very interested in distancing himself from his parents or his culture at all. he still speaks chinese, he cooks taiwanese food, and i read the memoir last summer, and while he doesn’t shy away from the problems he had with his father, he also doesn’t demonise his father as an immigrant. he goes to taiwan regularly and engages with traditional culture (traditional chinese medicine, tea culture) he has maybe six videos on youtube as part of his larger video series on food for vice — where he visits taiwan and you can tell he knows a lot? and isn’t ashamed of it? so i really don’t think the distancing applies here, though it might have applied to his childhood (but i think many of us can relate to that? i certainly can. i actually related to a lot of the parts of the trailer — being told that my noodles looked like worms, the insistence of bringing white people food for lunch, not thinking perhaps that my mom cared so much for me but then realising she would actually take the step to ~sue the whole school~ to protect me, and the entire taiwanese market vs american supermarket thing)
and i don’t personally (i mean this has always been my view but it’s not necessarily a totalising view across all asian americans, obviously) mind asian americans playing other asian americans, unless the media itself relies on anti-asian rhetoric or stereotypes to remain engaging (zhang ziyi and gong li in memoirs of a geisha and ken jeong in community, though it’s also worth mentioning that zhang ziyi and gong li are han chinese in china, where they are the ethnic cultural linguistic etc majority). because often times — and this is the fault of white supremacist america — we are conflated with each other anyway, so our experiences navigating white america have many commonalities and we share a lot of the same experiences. i cannot relate, for example, to many aspects of korean language or japanese culture or something like that, but most of my friends are in fact asian american (not necessarily chinese or taiwanese american) because we can laugh together about being labeled as perpetual foreigners even though our english is so much better than some of the white kids in english class, we can laugh together about growing up in an immigrant household — wanting white people lunch, for example, or going to x-language schools as a kid, or watching dramas and films from the motherland. so i don’t actually care that korean american randall park is playing eddie’s taiwanese father (though that accent needs working on).
it’s also worth mentioning that randall park starred in home is where the hans are, a web miniseries created by wong fu productions, which was written and produced by three sino americans who are generally quite adamant about representation of asian americans.
i also have a problem with the notion that asian americans can only play characters of their own ethnic background and should only stay within ethnic lines. it’s further alienating and distancing us from from mainstream acting? white actors play people of different ethnicity all the time? and it’s not mentioned and it’s not a thing. because we can accept the individuality of white people. so can we not accept the individuality of ((east) asians? or is the difference between the (east) asian cultures so insignificant that we have to emphasise them (and their people) as different? and if this is the case, why is media culture — and not individual asian american actors and producers who are trying to make a living — not to blame? (also worth noting: the creator of the show, nahnatchka khan, is herself asian american (iranian american, to be precise), and i at least hope that she’s not going to be the type of person who okays the mocking of immigrants when her parents are immigrants)
now i honestly don’t know how the show is going to handle its portrayal of its black characters and i don’t know if it’s going to be anti-black or how anti-black it’s going to be, especially given eddie huang’s participation with black american hip hop culture (i didn’t really personally have any opinion on it, based on the book, because i couldn’t really tell if he’s being appropriative or standing in solidarity? he said that he engaged in it because it too was an art form in resistance of white supremacy in america, but i also wasn’t sure where that engagement bled over into appropriation, and i think i mentioned before that i feel like the root of a lot of engagement for many (east) asian american men with hip hop is the (perceived) hypermasculinity of black men versus the emasculation of asian men, and how harmful that was because that hypermasculinity also makes black men hypervisual to white supremacy, and works in very detrimental ways? but that’s i think another conversation and i don’t know that it applies here; it’s been a while since i’ve thought about the book tbh)
but i think it’s worth noting, at least, that even if the tv series is definitely going to be sanitised from the book (memoir!father was very abusive, and randall!father doesn’t seem to be going into that direction, memoir!eddie became a drug dealer for some time, and i doubt they’d show that on a sitcom) it’s still based on the memoir, which was based on his life, and the incident in question did happen. and it’s true that it definitely could have been removed, or perhaps handled better (though we don’t yet know how the show is going to handle it?), but it didn’t come out of left field with a specifically white supremacist agenda (though of course that could be one effect of it?)
one thing i am exceptionally concerned about aside from how race is going to be handled is how non-asians will react to it. most of my asian american friends have more or less agreed with me (though you know often we are friends with people who share our views) that they could identify a lot with some of the scenes shown in the trailer. i’m worried that what we see as in-jokes and common experiences and mocking of white american culture is going to read, to people who don’t share these experiences — and particularly lbr white people — as “ha ha look at the silly immigrants they’re so weird and alien”