So far in season one of Fresh Off the Boat, the genders have been fairly traditionally represented. The main characters are a nuclear family with young boys. In some aspects, I suppose the show could be somewhat progressive for the way in which the mother is represented as being rather equally in control over the family as the father. However, it is also his job that moves the family, he who is the main breadwinner, and she who is at home with the kids. For the purpose of playing devil’s advocate, it is true that she very much has a backbone and that she pushes the children in school and calls her husband on his BS, often times saving his skin at the restaurant, but she is also placed in very traditional roles, almost stereotypical for an Asian mother. This way, the show plays with the transitioning role of women in society and emphasizes the context of the character both in her sex and ethnicity in terms of her role in the family. She represents the progression of the role of women in society as she is not as empowered in her career, yet she owns being a stay at home mother and takes an active role in her husband’s business, indicating that although she is in traditional roles, she still has a backbone.
With the issue of gender, this show is much less progressive than it could be. There are only the two traditional genders represented, and even these aren’t represented very progressively. We don’t see any instances of the characters being gender fluid, transgender, cross-dressing, androgeny, or otherwise. All of the female characters are feminine and so far all have been straight. All of the men act and dress as a cis hetero male would. The show’s cultural focus is clear. It is not gender. It is not sexuality. It is about Asian immigrants in America. In a way, I can respect this because the focus is not being distracted from. The narrative is told. However, I also take issue with this because it does not reflect the reality for most Americans. Gender is a spectrum. Sexuality is a spectrum. Fresh Off the Boat isn’t too fresh with the facts.