English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Grace Harrison

Getting Fresh on the Boat

For this free blog post, I am going to evaluate how Fresh Off the Boat deals with issues regarding sexual harassment because this episode revolves around sexual harassment.

Eddie, who is Asian, is often excluded from things at school by the other kids. He is finally invited to a sleepover when the other kids heard about he touched the butt of an attractive woman (without her permission). At the sleepover, they plan on looking at a dirty magazine. Eddie, when he is unable to go to the sleepover because his mom wants him to have it at their house, tells the boys that he has a dirty movie. This instance shows how women are sexualized very early on by boys. Their social status revolves around their ability to do so. When Eddie is unable to steal a dirty movie, he ends up asking a girl to film her while she washes a car. This is another instance where he sexual harasses a girl in order for social status. Instead he uses a sexual harassment video that his parents use for the restaurant as a dirty video. This starts a sexual harassment epidemic at school. The principle calls in Eddie’s parents to tell them that they need to have a talk with their son. Without proper education children can have wrong ideas about what sex, consent, and sexual harassment is exactly. The only thing his dad told him that was educational was that he need to “wrap it up”. His mom then wanted to make sure he understand that rape is wrong.

While Eddie struggles with trying to climb the social ladder, his parents deal with how to have a sexual harassment seminar at work. When Jessica first tries to have the seminar, she insults and sexually harasses the employees at the restaurant instead by objectifying the women and giving examples of dirty jokes which leave people offended.

Jessica and her Dirty Jokes

Overall this episode did carry a message about sexual harassment, but not quite as educational as one might assume. Their attempt at a sexual harassment seminar was one similar to what Michael Scott might do on the Office.

Fresh Shots of the Boat

The show is fast-paced since it has to fit a story line in a 20 minute episode. For this reason, the show is shot in short takes to keep the plot line moving along. This matches the quick nature of the family they are following. The family lives a fast-paced lifestyle. In this episode, the mother’s sister is coming to visit and they need to show off their wealth.

Success Perm

The show shows them quickly getting ready for their family to visit and then the relatives arriving. Then, their family arrives and they move from outside where they discuss the house, to inside the house where they discuss their house more, to their restaurant where they switch between the women showing who got a better bargain and the men discussing the success of their business. Then they move back to their house where more is revealed. All of the shots are very quick and all the actions moves very quickly as it has to.
The show is lit well. This shows how the show is light-hearted and meant to be feel good. The color scheme is a bit dated since it is supposed to be put in the 90s. For this reason, the costumes are designed to look like they are from the 90s. The show also includes a clip from OJ’s trial and a small plot line with that to put in the time period.
This episode does not follow a different format as other episodes. Since the show is a sitcom, each episode tends to follow the same format. There is a conflict that is resolved in the last few minutes. For this reason, it makes sense to follow the same format in a every episode as there is not much time to change it up. Perhaps the last episode contains a cliffhanger without a resolution to keep viewers watching but as this episode is towards the middle of the season there isn’t a change in format.

Who is on the Boat?

The only two genders represented are male and female. The main characters on the show are mostly male. I would consider Jessica, Louis, and Eddie the main characters. While the brothers are lower main characters.
The mom has to worry about fitting in with the neighborhood women. While Louis worries about making the restaurant successful, he tells Jessica that they need to project success.He thinks Jessica needs to fit in with the other women so their families will go to the restaurant.

The Neighborhood Assosciation

Women seemed to be used as wives or girlfriends in the show rather than powerful in their positions. Jessica wishes to be friends with Honey, who is used as the typical trophy wife. She is looked down upon by the other women. Because Honey is looked down upon by the other women, Louis tells Jessica he can’t be friends with her. The majority of the women on the show are shown to be blonde carbon copies of each other. They are used as plot devices and do not have any purpose other than to be antagonists without much individual characterization. They are seen to be interested in stereotypical housewife activities, but Jessica is interested in horror novels. Part of the reason that Louis pushes Jessica so much away from Honey is because she is already seen as an outsider by the other women due to their race.
Eddie thinks the only way to fit in is to get an attractive girlfriend. He draws upon Old Dirty Bastard to learn that he needs a “hot woman on his arm” in order to fit in. He is shown objectifying women and going after Honey because he thinks she is what he needs to prove his status. Once again Eddie is an outsider because of his race and sees the only way to prove his masculinity is throw status symbols. At the end of the episode, Honey allows Eddie to use her to impress her friends by giving him a hug, during which he attempts to grab her ass, which she did not consent to, once again showing how the show objectifies women.

Honey Hug

The one exception to the typical gender representation is Evan. He participates in activities that would be considered girly. He goes to the neighborhood party planning committee and gossips with the women there.

Gossiping with the Ladies

Evan’s Reaction

One factor to consider in the representation of gender in Fresh Off the Boat is the time period. The show is set in 1990s so gender roles were not quite as progressive as they are today. In addition, the show is set in the suburbs, which generally emphasized the typical house wife image.

Getting Off the Boat Quickly

This episode is written by Nahnatchka Khan. They have also written American Dad! And Don’t Trust the B—— in Apartment 23. While I have not seen American Dad!, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 seems to use similar quick dialogue and cutbacks to explain situations.

Since the show is following a family in a sitcom format, most of the dialogue in the show is conversation.
There are callbacks to previous events, such as when Eddie’s grades were delivered and Eddie got caught hiding them by his mother. These callbacks provide context for the scenes in the show.

Report Card Time!

One callback also utilizes voiceover by adult Eddie. This callback is when he is describing what the Chinese Learning Center (CLC) is because the principle is confused when the mother asks about it. These voiceovers by adult Eddie are not frequent in the show, but they are a reminder that the show is set in another time period and is being told by Eddie from the present. The voiceover also is used to explain things people might not otherwise understand, either culturally or about their own family dynamic. For a show revolving around the theme of being a diverse family in a mainly White area, these explanations make sense for the show. Finally, the voiceover serve as a way to share the moral of the episode in the final moments.
References to pop culture are also frequent in the writing. They seemed to be use to show characterization of Eddie, since he is characterized as loving hip hop. In addition, they are used to provide context for the time period.

Eddie the Hip Hop Lover

The show’s writing is fast paced and concise, which seems to fit the speed of the family. Especially, the mother who likes things to be efficient as possible. In addition, since the episodes are only around twenty minutes long, the fast paced script serves the show well as they need to create and resolve a conflict quickly.

Women in Comedy: A Tina Fey Analysis

Swink, Robyn S. “Lemony Liz and Likable Leslie: Audience Understandings of Feminism, Comedy, and Gender in Women-Led Television Comedies.” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2017, pp. 14-28. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1857759793?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2017.1261832.

This article discusses how viewers interpret shows with female comedian showrunners that such as 30 Rock, Parks and Recreations, The Mindy Project, and Girls. The author interviewed watchers of these shows to understand their understandings of feminism based on the shows. These shows are in the post-feminist era which involves the assumption that feminism has already completed what it set out to complete. The majority of the shows include a White middle-class woman who is independent. The lack of diversity in these shows excludes the fact that intersectional feminism still has yet to make significant progress. The writer of the article found that often times in these shows, even with a female showrunner, the male characters are the ones who are seen as funny. These shows are often seen as feminist shows by description, but many of the viewers interviewed did not see all the female show runners’ characters as feminist.
This article provides insight into how viewers interpret shows that are supposedly feminist with female show runners.

Lauzen, Martha. “THE FUNNY BUSINESS OF BEING TINA FEY: Constructing a (Feminist) Comedy Icon.” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 14, no. 1, 2014, pp. 106. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1509208764?accountid=11107.

This article begins by discussing how Tina Fey has gained success in spite of the notion that women cannot be funny. Her form of comedy includes degrading herself to make others laugh. However, this form of comedy among women also makes a comment on women being seen as inferior to men. Fey often comments on her appearance to show society that she does not value what is valued by our society in a women’s appearance. Fey also addresses the prejudices against women in comedy by reprimanding those who discriminate against women in the industry in their place and pointing out to reporters when they ask a question which they would not ask a male. Fey herself has very rarely labeled herself a feminist, but her actions show she is.
This article provides an evaluation of Fey’s role as a woman in comedy who has had success. It gives an interesting insight to how Fey’s form of comedy also comments on women’s perceived inferiority to men.

Morreale, Joanne. “Do Bitches Get Stuff done?” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 10, no. 4, 2010, pp. 485. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/863787606?accountid=11107.

This article discusses Tina Fey and her character Liz Lemon on the show 30 Rock. The article evaluates whether or not Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon truly represents her “Bitches get stuff done” statement she once made. Liz Lemon provides contradictory imagery to the feminist character she is intended to be. Her appearance is unattractive which supports the negative stereotypes of feminists. In addition, she is stereotypically portrayed as a woman who lacks confidence, wishes to be in a relationship, and struggles with technology. The article also points out that 30 Rock is constrained by network television which results in Liz Lemon being a less politically divisive. It contrasts Liz Lemon with a character on Lisa Kudrow’s HBO show The Comeback. Since the show is on HBO it is allowed to take more risks. The Comback highlighted problems in reality television and other aspects of the entertainment industry. However, the show was canceled because it failed to collect a big enough audience.
This article provides insight into some of the restrictions on female comedians. Furthermore, it highlights how even Tina Fey, a well-established comedian, cannot take a fully feminist stance within comedy.

Child, Ben. “Tina Fey: It’s a ‘Terrible Time’ for Women in Comedy.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 3 Mar. 2016, www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/03/tina-fey-its-a-terrible-time-for-women-in-comedy.

This article discusses Tina Fey’s comment about how it is a terrible time for women in comedy. Even when their work is substantially better in quality than their male counterparts, women in comedy are still getting paid less than men. Additionally, women are still getting asked sexist questions by reporters. During press for their movie Sisters, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey would be asked questions intended to turn them against each other. This is a common sexist move that is used with the intention of portraying women as catty rather than supportive of each other. The article continues to describe how Fey sees the importance of support in the competitive industry. To get anywhere in this industry, women must not backstab each other because one woman’s failure does not lead to another’s success.
This article provides insight into how the press treats female comedians. It demonstrates how the media still uses sexist tactics against female comedians.

Loofbourow, Lili. “Tina Fey Doesn’t Need David Letterman’s Approval.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 17 May 2018, slate.com/culture/2018/05/tina-fey-rachel-bloom-and-the-death-of-male-approval-in-comedy.html.

This article discusses interviews between Rachel Bloom, Tina Fey, and two powerful men in comedy. In these interviews, the women, rather than accepting the praise of the male comedians seen as legends, address the problems in their statements in a nonconfrontational way. Tina Fey refuses to accept the approval of a controversial skit from David Letterman. Letterman repeatedly attempts to form a bond with Tina Fey over the common scenario of an audience having a bad reaction to the skit. However, Fey sees the reaction from the audience as a learning experience while Letterman sees the reaction as the audience not understanding him. In Blooms interview with Marc Maron, Maron attempts to express his approval of her show by calling it a guilty pleasure. However, this description invalidates her work as a female comedian. Both women’s refusal to accept the male comedians’ approval demonstrates that they do not need male validation, which would require them sacrificing their ability to call the men out when they are being sexist.
This article shows women comedians taking their own paths rather than choosing to be accepted into the male world of comedy at the expense of their feminist stances.

“Tina Fey: ‘Men Are Still Getting Paid More for a Lot of Garbage’.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 2 Mar. 2016, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/tina-fey-on-women-in-comedy-men-are-still-getting-paid-more-for-a-lot-of-garbage-a6907721.html.

This article highlights Tina Fey’s frustration with the wage gap for women in comedy. For male comedians, if they are famous, they can sell almost any movie that they put together. Women comedians are constantly fighting for success in the industry. The success of several movies with female comedians has lured people into believing women are easily able to be successful in comedy. However, Tina Fey believes that this is false. Before it even premiered, the newest remake of Ghostbusters starring women as the Ghostbusters received many negative reviews just because it starred women. Just like original male Ghostbusters, all the female Ghostbusters were from the cast of Saturday Night Live. That achievement alone should have given them some credit among the critics, but their gender stood in the way of the public giving the movie a chance.
This article provides insight into how critics fail to see women as funny even when they have the same merits as the male comedians.

White People Lunch

The theme addressed in this episode is being a minority in a community where the majority race is White. This is addressed in a few different ways. First, Louis, the father, decides that the reason his restaurant isn’t doing well is that he, a Taiwanese man, is the host and greets people rather than a White person. This is definitely relevant in a world where many people tend to see White people as safe while other races are seen for stereotypes.

Louis explaining why he hires a White host

Next, in school, Eddie is the only Asian kid in school and at lunch he is exiled because the meal his mom packed for him smells funny to the White kids. Having immigrant parents can cause children to stand out in school. Some kids can be embarrassed by not fitting in to mainstream culture. In Eddie’s case, he decides that to fit in he needs to buy Lunchables for his meal because that is what everybody else has.

White people lunch

The struggle of being a minority continues when Eddie gets called a racial slur by the only Black kid in school. The Black kid seems to have called him this because he seemed mad that Eddie would have the opportunity to fit in with the White kids before him.


Being a minority in a majority White community definitely seems like it will be a major theme throughout Fresh Off the Boat. It seems like it will follow their struggles and triumphs within the community. Both Eddie and Louis seem like they are willing to conform to White culture in order to succeed in their fields. Jessica, however, seems like she misses living in Chinatown in DC and doesn’t want to fit in as much with the White woman in the neighborhood. At the end of the day, the whole family still is proud of who they are. They stick up for Eddie when he gets in the fight after being called a racial slur. They won’t forget their background.

Fresh on the Blog

Hi, my name is Grace Harrison! I am currently undecided in the school of engineering but I think that I am going to do Industrial Engineering. Hopefully I will be graduating in 2022 (we’ll see if that actually happens).

This is my first English class at Tech! At my high school our English classes tended to focus on traditional literature and modes of communication. However, the last English class I took was a themed course called “Stories of What if?” that included more sources of information such as movies, books, articles, and podcasts. I hope to improve my nonverbal communication skills this year as I previously was not very good at communicating in ways other than written and verbal.

This course attracted because it involved two themes I loved, Television and Feminism. I frequently binge watch Netflix (maybe to a point that would be considered excessive). I also would consider myself a passionate feminist. I have not had much experience relating the two themes except that one of my friends is very interested in the television industry and taught me some about the progress and lack of progress in the industry. I also did some research during the various scandals that have happened recently relating to Harvey Weinstein and others.

I have chosen to review Fresh Off the Boat! Fresh Off the Boat is about an Asian-American family who moves to the suburbs in Florida, which are predominately White in the 1990s, to pursue the American Dream.

Moving for the American Dream

I chose this show because I have seen one episode of it and really enjoyed it. I also care very much about social issues and wanted to choose a show that included a racial component as well as feminism to make this more intersectional since feminism is about more than just White people. I am a huge fan of Constance Wu (I still need to see Crazy Rich Asians though) and cannot wait to start watching the show!

Constance Wu is the best

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