English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Jason Howard

Heritage and Tradition in Fresh Off the Boat – An Analysis of How the Huang Family Maintains their Asian Identity While Assimilating into White Florida Culture

Fresh Off the Boat struggles with a great many issues that Asians have had to face, and continue to face today. While the perceived benefits of assimilating into White culture are displayed extensively throughout the show (social acceptance, business success, and less judgement received from white neighbors) the Huangs have to constantly battle within themselves to determine their identity in a rapidly globalizing world today. This struggle is especially highlighted in the episode, “So Chineez,” in which Jessica observes just how far their family has changed to fit in with their whitewashed surroundings as she finally becomes close with her neighbors and Louis considers joining a country club. The conflict of this episode revolves around the Huang family’s appreciation of the American culture that they have assimilated into, including both the luxury and the leisure of life in the middle class, against Jessica’s desire to reconnect with the Chinese culture that has defined both her and Louis’s work ethics. As Louis begins to enjoy his visits to the country club both for its luxury and for its business opportunity, he and other family members begin to resist Jessica’s push to maintain Chinese culture because the life that they have fallen into in Orlando has become one that they are both comfortable and accepted in.

Jessica attempts to reconnect with her culture by donning some traditional Chinese garb.

Throughout this episode Jessica comes to the realization that it is nearly impossible to live in a white suburb without assimilating into their culture and discovers a certain middle ground in which one can both assimilate into a culture while respecting and understanding one’s historical roots. This establishes a key concept throughout the show of the Asian-American intersectionality in which Eddie is not entirely Asian, and not entirely American, but has pieces of his identity within both cultures. What Eddie tries to convey in his memoir that this show is based off of is that this is what separates Asian Americans from Asians and Americans.

Examining the Role of Women in the Labour Force According to the Ideals of Fresh Off the Boat

Within this episode, Jessica attempts to leave her life as a stay-at-home mom behind and join the workforce as a realtor. However, after her first attempt at the realtor licensing exam, she realizes that re-entering the workforce will be a much tougher nut to crack than she originally believed. One of the main challenges Jessica struggles with is her inability to accept the fact that she was a stay-at-home mom and has to cope with the struggles of others like her who have difficulty entering the work force. The difficulty within switching between the roles of motherhood to worker have long been a key issue in the battle for women’s equality within the labor market.

Jessica often aims to be the best at what she does, but she gives up easily when she faces opposition.

As the episode continues Jessica pretends to have earned her realtor license so as not to lose the respect of her husband, family, and friends and struggles with the concept of heavy competition within the workforce and her desire to avoid the label of stay-at-home mother. After hiding from her family and friends to pretend to be working she realizes that she will only be fulfilled once she has begun to work and is able to compete with the other realtors in the area.

Naturally this transition is one that must be balanced while Jessica maintains her duties around the home. It is her responsibility to both maintain her children’s grades and academic standing as well as to cook and clean around the house, which places a large amount of strain on Jessica. Due to her desire to work hard and to be better than everyone else however, she is able to overcome these barriers and maintain a healthy work-life balance that is often strained when beginning a new career. This episode highlights the difficult transition of women into the labour force as well as the rough odds of a woman being successful in the labor force when burdened by a family.

The Value of Hard Work in Fresh Off the Boat

In the show Fresh Off the Boat, Eddie’s parents had always expected him to work hard, and when Eddie starts yearning for some extra spending money, his parents expect no less of him than to work for his cash. Eddie gets put to work as “Fajita Man” in the Cattleman’s Ranch restaurant to capitalize on the Fajita craze of the 1990’s and soon learns that his father expects no less work from him than from any other employees at the restaurant.

Eddie working hard as Fajita Man to make some extra money at Cattleman’s Ranch.

After starting to work Eddie soon realizes that the role of Fajita Man is the worst job possible in the restaurant due to its repetitive and demeaning nature. Louis Huang continues to explain that it is his duty to make sure that Eddie works hard for his money because Louis remembers that his father made him work hard for his money to build a strong work ethic within himself.

Ultimately Eddie begins to get discouraged at work because he drops food and breaks plates and has a hard time focusing on the job at hand, which causes Eddie to stop showing up to work, much to the dismay of his father. His father lends Eddie some money so that he can buy the legendary video game, Shaq Fu, because he wants to have a better relationship with Eddie than he had with his father. Eddie returns to work because he realizes that he should work to earn the things he wants in life.

Eddie works to buy the video game “Shaq Fu” which has become known as one of the worst video games of all time.

The episode reinforces the theme that hard work is needed to earn what you need in life throughout the episode but also reminds the audience that occasionally gentleness is needed in relationships. While Eddie ultimately came to realize that hard work makes him feel more fulfilled, Louis realized that occasionally he needed to show affection to his son in order to help Eddie grow as a person and not just a worker.


Sitcom Cinematography in Fresh Off the Boat: Similarities and Differences

From the first glance, Fresh Off the Boat may seem to be shot similarly to most sitcoms, going so far as to have an establishing shot over each new location, but in reality there are several key differences between how Fresh Off the Boat is shot and other sitcoms that we are all familiar with. For this post I will review season 1, episode 3: The Shunning. In this episode the show begins with an expositional recap of the show that highlights Luis’s struggle to run a restaurant and Jessica and Eddie’s struggle to overcome their otherness in the community. This recap consists of quick shots of dialogue that help to reinforce the ongoing conflicts between Eddie and his peer group, and Luis and his restaurant.

Similarly to most sitcoms, a lot of the comic and dramatic action unfold in a common gathering area, in this case, a living room. Early in the episode Jessica visits with the other neighborhood wives to shoot the breeze and discuss an upcoming block party. The camera zooms in on the character who is talking at the given moment but it keeps a wide enough shot to include the surrounding characters, which helps to reinforce Jessica’s overwhelmed state as she tries to blend in with the neighbors.

(The Huang parents while still being shot together are given a wide enough shot to convey both their body language and a full background.)

The dialogue between two characters in a sitcom will usually switch camera angles to focus on the character who is currently speaking in the show. In Fresh Off the Boat that is most certainly the case but the camera will also include the shoulder or back of the person being talked to, so as to give a sense of their presence in the dialogue. This practice reflects the shows overall tendency to rarely depict the Huangs by themselves. Since one of the focuses of this show is to portray the struggle of members of the Huang family to fit in, most of the show is designed to feature interpersonal interaction rather than individual experience.

Analysis of Gender Representation in Television Bibliography: Jason Howard

Jason – https://search.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/1283435592/6CE5A3E0C1664C19PQ/6?accountid=11107

Lips, Hilary M. “The Gender Pay Gap: Challenging the Rationalizations. Perceived Equity, Discrimination, and the Limits of Human Capital Models.” Sex Roles, vol. 68, no. 3-4, 2012, pp. 169–185., doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0165-z.


This article helps to explore the common rationalizing of the pay gap by criticizing the limitations of the human capital model, which is often cited in the defense of perceived pay equity in the labor market today. By demonstrating how the supposed logical investment of companies into labor ignores critical factors such as gendered educational paths, gaps in career continuity due to family reasons, and general associations between gender and job prestige. The article calls research from several sources that collect data on percentages of women in various career fields to establish a tendency towards a certain type of sex based segregation towards women in the job market as well as sex based segregation within the same career or company. This article discusses mostly wage discrimination within the skills labor market rather than in the talent and creativity labor market yet it addresses the key point of assigning different jobs within the same career field. The role of women within the same television show is often determined by the writer and thus even though women and men are technically in the same career, they are still occupying separate roles within the same career field. In this nature, the article draws attention to important distinctions between explicit wage discrimination and implicit segregation of a career field into gendered roles.

Jason – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08838151.2018.1484292?scroll=top&needAccess=true

Finneman, Teri, and Joy Jenkins. “Sexism on the Set: Gendered Expectations of TV Broadcasters in a Social Media World.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 62, no. 3, 2018, pp. 479–494., doi:10.1080/08838151.2018.1484292.

This article seeks to evaluate the extent to which gendered expectations affect the careers of television journalists and other women in the field of news broadcasting. The article draws upon polls of women in broadcasting and examples of social media harassment targeted towards women in broadcasting. The author points out that the accessibility of social media allows for unexpected interaction between broadcasters and viewers that grants a certain bonus of anonymity towards the average viewer. Thus the birth of the age of social media allows for much more publicly available proof of the discrimination felt by women in broadcasting. This article provides not only anecdotal evidence to the large presence of discrimination in the television business but rather establishes a set of characteristics that women are judged by according to the common viewer, which sheds light on how women can be perceived as less effective by a company or by a producer. While this does not in itself provide evidence of a wage gap it gives indicators into where wage gaps might be more obvious or some proximate cause as to wage disparities in the broadcasting industry.


Jason –


Olen, Helaine. “Mind the Gender Gap: How to ensure your business pays workers fairly.” Inc., June 2018, p. 56. Contemporary Women’s Issues, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A541288580/CWI?u=gainstoftech&sid=CWI&xid=e387a6ee. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

This article provides a legitimate process for reducing the wage discrimination within an organization in a manner that ensures fair pay for all employees regardless of gender. This argument highlights the benefits of fair pay, such as increased worker productivity and a higher worker retention rate. The author advocates for making organizational flow charts to determine the actual workload carried out by each worker so as to determine actual revenue generated compared to individual company investment in a worker. The author also argues that a one time pay audit and correction will not solve a company’s long term trends of pay inequality. This article provides not just an analysis into the machinations of pay inequality, but rather it provides a ray of hope in granting a seemingly effective manner to rectify pay inequality for large corporations at multiple levels in organization. Thus this method provides some general guideline into how a broadcasting corporation could analyze the actual work done by workers so as to rectify the wage inequality in hollywood.

Jason – http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T003&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&searchType=SubjectGuideForm&currentPosition=9&docId=GALE%7CA521094254&docType=Article&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=CWI&subjectParam=Q1&contentSet=GALE%7CA521094254&searchId=R1&userGroupName=gainstoftech&inPS=true&displaySubject=Employment+discrimination&subjectAction=VIEW_SUBDIVISIONS&searchQueryId=Q1

Mair, Liz. “Training Won’t Prevent Sexual Harassment, Hiring Women Will.” The Report, from U.S. News & World Report, 29 Dec. 2017. Contemporary Women’s Issues, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A521094254/CWI?u=gainstoftech&sid=CWI&xid=7f97283e. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

This article focuses on the failures of sexual harassment training in corporations and instead analyzes the reduction of sexual harassment as the proportion of women to men within a company increases. The article cites specific companies that have been recently litigated for sexual discrimination and harassment prevalent in the workplace and makes the conclusion that these companies, despite having strong sexual harassment awareness programs, have achieved little in the way of reduced harassment. The author argues that the only surefire method of removing discrimination from a workplace is to employ more women at all levels of organization to prevent unwanted sexual advances from men. This article aims at a specific deficiency that is only slowing being removed from the television industry: the lack of women in positions of power. Recently as a part of the #metoo movement, several large names in entertainment have faced consequence for their mistreatment of women, yet due to the lack of women employed in positions of power in hollywood, the situation has barely seen any true level of resolution.

Jason – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144818816300497?via%3Dihub

Hanssen, F. Andrew, and Robert K. Fleck. “Persistence and Change in Age-Specific Gender Gaps: Hollywood Actors from the Silent Era Onward.” SSRN Electronic Journal, vol. 48, 26 Aug. 2016, pp. 36–49., doi:10.2139/ssrn.2169573.

This article examines the gender gaps present in specific age groups throughout different eras of hollywood history. Through its analysis of employment in the film industry from the 1920’s through 2011, it reveals that on average women were employed less in film and were younger than the average male actor throughout nearly all years in this span. The data also shows a consistent employment of males in both leading and credited roles in movies over this span with neither growth nor decline of women roles throughout the 91 year span of the data. This data however only includes the proportion and ages of men and women employed in the film industry and does not contain data related to wages or other forms of inequality within the film career field. This article helps to notate specific differences in the optimum age and proportion of genders in the film industry and helps to establishes almost a constant proportion of male leading actors and female leading actors as well as male credited actors and female credited actors. The implied quota here implies more competition between women for jobs in acting assuming a near equal amount of actors and actresses, which could suggest possible mechanism for unequal pay between men and women.

Jason –


Rhode, Deborah L. “The subtle side of sexism.” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, vol. 16, no. 3, 2007, p. 613+. Contemporary Women’s Issues, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A172777358/CWI?u=gainstoftech&sid=CWI&xid=d4a1271f. Accessed 19 Sept. 2018.

This article makes an argument for a new, more prevalent vehicle for sex based discrimination, differentiating between conscious hatred towards women breaking from their socially expected norms and a subtle social expectation for how women should behave, thus aiming at a less perceivable yet equally dangerous form of discrimination that harms women today. The author argues that since women are seen more frequently in positions of power in the US today that people look less at statistical trends in women employment which leads some to the perception that women are treated equally as men in our society. However statistics still point out that women in positions of power are still much less common than men and that women in positions of power must come off as masculine and effective rather than feminine in any way. This applies to our research prompt because subtle sexism could never be more prevalent than in television, with shows often portraying depictions of ideal lifestyles for all sorts of subcultures in American society. It is realistic to believe that certain subtle sexist beliefs and expectations could greatly influence the directions that these shows would go in.

Taking a Quick Peek at the Writing Behind Fresh Off the Boat

Looking at the pilot of the show, “Fresh Off the Boat” the characters are introduced to an entirely new environment, Orlando, Florida, and must all adapt to the suburban lifestyle all while attempting to blend in with a largely white community. Furthermore, Eddie has to try to fit the expectations set for him despite considering himself the “Black Sheep” of the family. The opening scene opens with Eddie trying on expensive clothes and his mom promptly denying him said clothes. This is when we are introduced to our narrator, the real life Eddie Huang, as he explains his frustration at his mother’s lack of understanding of department stores. Within the first minute of the show, the narrator’s lines already establish one of the key conflicts that recurs throughout the show: Eddie’s understanding and acceptance of American culture vs. his family’s vexation and resistance towards it.

(Eddie tries on some posh clothes that don’t quite fit into his mother’s price range for shopping.)

The next key scene immediately follows as Eddie flashes back to his road trip as he moved from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida. In this scene, the narrator quickly, but blatantly describes the characters in the family and his relationship towards them. He establishes that his father bought into the American dream, that his mother was hard on him, and that both were worried about him, after which, he quickly dismisses the other members of his family. This dismissive words of the narrator helps to reveal Eddie’s sense of separation from his family and his feelings of being an outsider. As the episode progresses, the narration becomes less frequent and the character’s dialogue begins to take more significance in the episode. A key distinction to notice in the episode is the dialogue of the white characters being illogical yet patronizing whereas the dialogue of the Huang family being straightforward and personal. During most scenes with white characters interacting with Eddie the characters will struggle to speak to him due to the fact that they expect him to speak little or no English. Whether it be tourists in DC who slowly as for directions to the “W H I T E   H O U S E” or teachers who do not know how to pronounce his name, Eddie establishes the general lack of understanding towards Taiwanese culture in specific, and Asian cultures in general.

The episode wraps up with an epic showdown as Eddie’s parents duke it out with the principal of his middle school. After discovering that Eddie started a fight because a student called him a “chink” Louis Huang berates the principal following with Jessica accusing the principal of ignoring the bullying problem in his school. This scene ultimately reveals Eddie’s parents true feelings towards their son and their understanding of how difficult it is to fit into the whitewashed town of Orlando.

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