The topic of culture is extremely prominent in Fresh Off the Boat. In all episodes, some commentary on the culture of Asian-Americans is present. In season 2 episode 11, culture is extensively discussed through the theme that cultural appreciation leads to meaningful relationships whereas cultural appropriation creates increased detachment among individuals and separation of cultures. In this episode, the Huang family unfortunately miss their flight to where the rest of their family will be celebrating the Chinese New Year, and struggle to find somewhere at home for them to authentically celebrate the New Year.
The show does a great job of normalizing the holiday for the family. Although it seems to appreciate the significance of the event, the show remains down the earth in the conveying of the holiday, so that it seems like any other holiday. Despite this normalcy, the Huang family finds it extremely difficult to find any celebration int he area. Eventually, they get in contact with the “Asian American Association of Orlando” and the association excitedly responds that they are having a huge party. Yet, once the Huangs arrive, they find no other Chinese people. They find themselves faced with an American inspired festival full of events such as “dropping the rat” (referring to the American tradition of dropping the ball) and a “dragon dance” (a guy in a dragon suit dancing with a group of cheerleaders).
The show is clearly commenting on how cultural appropriation leads to stressed relationships and discomfort between the two parties. Obviously, the Huangs are extremely offended with the so called Chinese New Year celebration they arrived at. In fact, when Louis (Eddie’s father) exclaims, “Happy New Year,” Eddie responds, “What’s so happy about it?”
Later in the episode, however, the workers at Louis’s restaurant host an authentic Chinese New Year festival. The Huangs arrive shocked, ecstatic to see a traditional Lion Dance. During the festivities, the workers and the family grow closer and become more understanding and empathetic of each other, all while having a great time. The workers had a plethora of questions to ask, and the Huangs responded delightedly – well up until the questioning went on for hours and they went back to celebrating.
Overall, it is blatantly apparent that the producers of the show strive to show how cultural appreciation brings people together to form positive relationships. The episode does a great job of communicating the importance of the message, while at the same time making it seem natural. Of course, this episode naturally fits into the rest of the show wherein Eddie and the Huang family strive to fit in with Americans while remaining strong in their culture and beliefs.