Well, I’m six episodes into Fresh Off the Boat, and so far it’s SO GOOD! I realize that’s probably about as subjective as I can get, but I am thoroughly enjoying seeing the world through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy facing a lot of challenges in a new, unfamiliar environment. I also find the focus on the family element to be extremely refreshing. While many modern dramas highlight family conflict (kids disrespecting their parents, parents tearing each other down, grandparents being portrayed as old-fashioned and therefore irrelevant), Fresh Off the Boat depicts the Huang family as people who love each other and genuinely want the best for one another. That’s not to say that they don’t ever argue, or they live without EVER making each other’s lives miserable every now and then. They’re not perfect, despite what Jessica desperately wants her sister to believe (“Success Perm”). But at the end of the day, they’re all on the same team, which leads me into the first theme I’ve noticed in this show: Family is everything.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What about the guy who grew up in an abusive home and hasn’t spoken to his parents in decades? Or the little girl with an alcoholic father? Is family everything to those people? And no, that’s not what I mean. As we’ve talked about in class, shows like Murphy Brown and Jane the Virgin present the idea that family isn’t necessarily two parents and two children in a suburban house with a white picket fence. Sometimes, family isn’t even who DNA says family is. Family is all about love, kindness, patience, and support. In some cases, family may be all that you have. In a setting where an immigrant family moves to a new city, everything that was once familiar to them has changed. Everything, that is, except for family. I think Fresh Off the Boat argues that if you have your family around you (no matter what form that “family” may take), everything else will fall into place.
I see this theme clearly displayed in the episode “Home Sweet Home-School,” in which Jessica begins supplementing her sons’ education with some extra assignments at home. Eddie is upset because this new homeschool program means he can’t spend his afternoons playing basketball with his neighbor friend, and even Louis thinks Jessica has taken it a little too far. The episode ends with Jessica lightening up and Louis playing basketball with all three of his sons, and even though Eddie’s friend later joins them, Eddie realizes he’s happy with just his family. His whole world has changed, but his family has his back, no matter how crazy they drive him. The show uses this episode to prove that family love manifests itself in different ways, even if it’s as overbearing as Chinese Learning Center at home. No matter how much his life changes, Eddie always has his family.