English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: James Peavy

Chillin out, Relaxin all cool: FotB

Fresh off the Boat is a show about assimilation, about the ‘American Dream’ and everything in between. The first episode of season 2 helps to frame a story of a family that has had a small slice of the ‘American Dream’, and used it to become middle class, and enjoy one of the sweetest bittersweet tastes of that very lifestyle… vacation.

Usually I find it hard to relate to the challenges depicted in Fresh off the Boat, but when the Huangs go on vacation, I felt a real connection. Coming from the middle class myself, I understand what it was like to live well enough, but not well enough to truly experience the ability to get whatever and, just like the Huangs, vacation was the only experience in which I and so many others could feel like kings.

This ability to connect with viewers, even if those very same viewers don’t share similar life experiences is a key factor in any good sitcom, this is usually done through the environment and characters, familiar faces (many of which are not people of color) provided a viewer-base with a superficial bond with the characters.

A picture into the classic sitcom cast, diversity NOT being a requirement.

The ability for more modern sitcoms to relate with viewers while not providing a superficial connection due to color and origin is a special trait. This brings me back to Fresh off the Boat, a show about an Asian family integrating into the American middle class, and its ability to make themselves as American as any of their viewers, while still maintaining their identity (while being a little under-the-radar).

While i’m not saying that shows such as The Brady Bunch are bad, I actually think they are quite good, I am saying that they were clearly taking the safe route. I have talked before about the commonality between all American sitcoms, even poking at Fresh off the Boat for their safe lighting and design choices, but I would like to take the time to thank the modern sitcom.

Thank you for expanding our cast identity, backgrounds, colors and genders, America as a cultural, TV-watching, unit could always do with at least a little diversity filled vacation.

4th Time’s the Charm: Gender in Fresh off the Boat

The gender representation in Fresh off the Boat suffers from a lack of women in its cast, and the women in the show are usually just side characters (besides the Huang matriarch).

The show has a lack of women in it, but this might be due, in part, to the lack of women in the Huang family. Despite this lack of women, the show will still usually have 1 of the 3 sub-plots dedicated to Jessica. In this episode, she is quite present.

Jessica is usually shown to be the least nonsensical family member, as her husband is a completely goofy character. Despite this, she is depicted as a bit of an eccentric in this episode because of her superstitious beliefs. She is proven right in the end, and the family must change with the help of their grandmother’s strange rituals.

Jessica is a strong mother, she takes an active role in her kids’ lives and plays an active role in the family affairs, usually overpowering her husband. Despite this good representation, this happens to fall into one of the oldest stereotypes of Asian women, the Tiger Mom. On top of this classical stereotype, Jessica is an Asian middle-class penny-pincher. The show does a good job at showing the audience these stereotypes, but also doe not do much in the way of breaking them.

Jessica, in a fight with her husband (that she totally wins)

The show tends to allow Jessica’s character with many victories, she basically controls the family, wins most arguments she gets into, and is extremely gifted at selling houses, all of which are great for a strong female presence, but these little victories can not make up for the classical stereotypes that the show espouses, the Tiger Mom and penny-pincher, both of which are never addressed or talked about outside of the many jokes and gags present.

While Fresh off the Boat may be a funny sitcom about an under represented race in America, it does little to fix the associated stereotypes and deceptions of that very same race’s women.

Chicken Pox and Radars: Sitcom Filming

Sitcoms are some of the safest mediums in television, they have had a long history and have been almost perfected to a science. Shot by shot, Fresh off the Boat is your average sitcom fare. There is basically no risks taken, and it shows.

In most visual mediums (specifically television and movies) there are three types of shot: Long, Medium, and Close

An example of a medium shot in a movie.


And this might look closer than the medium shot, but compared to a classic close shot, it it too far away.

The show plays it safe, generally sticking to this medium, individual character-based shot composition. Compared to other episodes of the show, nothing much changes. This staple visual design is helped along by using another staple sitcom design technique, the shot reverse shot.

Characters, such as Jessica shown above, are often individually shot, with the camera making quick cuts to the other character she is talking to, such as Sunny or Louis.

Besides the normal sitcom shots and filming techniques (shot reverse shot and the medium shot) we do have some slight variations in Blind Spot episode 10 of season 1, such as the chicken pox animation that plays when a character contracts the virus and the strange horror-themed narrative they add in as a gag.

Ah, the classic ‘suddenly-appears-in-the-mirror’ horror technique.

I am surprised that they did anything different, but this difference was used a purely a gag.

To accentuate the character-based medium shots, there is one form of lighting in the show, bright and focused on the character’s face.

This lighting makes sense for a sitcom, we are expected to focus on character faces and reactions to the situations they are in thus delivering the comedy, but this is once again a classic sitcom decision. This lighting is consistent among most episodes in “Fresh off the Boat” and isn’t even changed in the gag-horror shots.

All of these shot and lightening choices are, once again, classic sitcom choices, which is perfectly fine. The shot quality, choice, and direction is fine because it does what it needs to, helps to frame the gags and dialogue, but it doesn’t do anything more.

How the genders are represented in primetime and children’s television throughout the decades 1950s-2010s

Our research question is: How has gender representation evolved in children’s and adolescents’ TV from the 1950s to the 2010s? Our background research allowed us to integrate the different components of this question into one particular topic. In the process of reading the already-existing literature, we found research on how gender representation has evolved in TV and TV commercials across several decades, the most common ones being the 1950s, 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s/2010s. We found research on the current state of gender representation in children’s TV and associated TV commercials, and how this is relevant not just to the development of children but, more broadly, to society.

After compiling all our sources, two major groups of research emerged: one evaluated gender representation by the variable of generational change, and the second evaluated gender representation specifically in terms of children’s TV. Our research question, then, aims to fill the field’s gap of changes in gender representation in terms of both generational change and children’s TV. Put simply, our research aims to bridge together the two distinct topics from our background research.


This is important because of how television influences children. Children are at a stage of development where their personalities and values are more malleable than adults; our background research found that children that watch TV tend to follow the lead of what’s portrayed, which influences today’s policies. For example, children who view LGBT couples as normal in television may view them as normal in their daily life as they grow older. By analyzing the changes in gender representation throughout time, we can gauge not only the roles portrayed in prior years but also potential future norms created from today’s children.

As for how we will be conducting research on this question, we will watch several TV shows, each being from one of the aforementioned decades. To fit the qualifier of “children’s TV,” the shows we select will all either be primetime TV shows or TV shows specifically marketed toward children ages 0-18, since our research examined several different age groups that we will combine into one. Our first method will be looking at the cast list for all episodes of each show to determine the overall representation of male and female characters. Our second method will be watching several episodes, selected based on the episode’s synopsis and cast, from each series and identifying the presence or absence of portrayed behaviors and trends. This checklist will be made based on the methods used in the sources from our, and potentially other groups’, background research. After collecting this data, we will then perform statistical tests to determine whether the differences in gender representation, if any, are significant.

Each of us will focus on one or two television shows that demonstrates this change, and we will run statistical analyses on our results and compare what we have seen.

Stereotypes and Writing (The Right way and The Huang way)

Today I would like to focus on an important aspect of ‘Fresh off the Boat’, its writing. I specifically decided upon episode 8 because it had some good humor/writing and dealt heavily with stereotypes, one of the chief themes of the show.

Episode 8 was co-written by Jeff Chiang & Eric Ziobrowski, two writers who have previously worked as guest writers for ‘American Dad’, and as staff writers for ‘Enlisted’ and ‘Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23’. This track record shows that they are both comedy writers, a claim which episode 8 backs up.

The episode starts off with the classic voice over by Eddie (real Eddie), which is the trademark of the series, and starts us off by stating what this episode will cover, Eddie finding someone at school who he can identify with.

Some of the important dialogue between Eddie and his mother start off the flashback and frame what they both want, Eddie to be a ‘good Chinese boy’ and Eddie wanting to go to the Beasty Boys concert.

The humor is typically scene based, revolving around Eddie and Philip’s interactions, and how all of the faculty at his school thinks that they like each other only because they are Chinese.

In the same manner that Eddie and Phillip are butting heads, Louis and Wyatt, his new greeter, are not getting along as much as Louis expected.

Just like how the Eddie and Philip are stereotyped, so too is Wyatt, a classic all american cowboy character

As usual, the show’s rap allusions keep us grounded in the era, but besides that, no illusions are used to any meaningful effect. The other standouts in this episode are the jokes (and Randall Park’s character). A great example of the humor is the faculty and their interactions with Eddie, specifically the principal. The final scene with Eddie was also a standout with the narration and the resolution of the character tension between Eddie and Walter.

The potential effects of TV on children (Group 2) Annotated Bibliography

Eisenstock, Barbara A. Television as a Source of Career Awareness for Children: Effects of Sex and Sex Role Preferences, University of Southern California, Ann Arbor, 1979. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu

Eisenstock’s paper above goes into talks about the discovery of career and career options by children, and the various factors that go into this discovery, as told from a professional research angle (graduate school). Eisenstock focuses on TV as a career discovery tool for children, in part due to its accessibility to anyone. Eisenstock references the common trend for TV of the time (1979) to place women in low-status occupations, such as secretaries and homemakers, and for men to be placed in high-status occupations such as doctors or lawyers. Eisenstock states that the continuation of these traditional sex-roles may be a major factor in the slow acceptance of non-traditional occupations and sex-roles. Eisenstock found that a child’s knowledge of his or her sex role mitigated the effect of traditional TV and that feminine and androgynous identified children reacted much better to the non-traditional work role sexes on TV than the masculine identified children. The idea that TV can both bring down and uplift society through its portrayal of gender is a good starting point for my group’s discussion.


Foust, James C., and Katherine A. Bradshaw. “Something for the Boys: Framing Images of Women in Broadcasting Magazine in the 1950s.” Journalism History, vol. 33, no. 2, 2007, pp. 93-95,97-100. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu

In the paper above, Foust and Katherine analyze the presence of women in Broadcasting magazine, a trade magazine associated with the broadcasting and TV industry, and determining in what light women are portrayed. They found that there are four major portrayals of the women in the magazines: women as sex objects or decoration, women as housewives, women displaying stereotypical behaviors, and women as professionals. The positive portrayals of women as professionals was found the be heavily outweighed by the other portrayals, 85 percent as opposed to 12 percent. One prominent example was the “Something for the Boys” section of an edition that only portrayed female models for a two-page spread. This research was done using a random sampling method and coding to analyze the frames of 1950s decade issues. This portrayal of women in Broadcasting publications could have been another reason why women in professional broadcasting roles were very rare in the early years of TV in addition to the already high barrier to entry for women in a male dominated industry.


Hoffner, Cynthia, and Martha Buchanan. “Young Adults’ Wishful Identification with Television Characters: The Role of Perceived Similarity and Character Attributes.” Media Psychology, vol. 7, no. 4, 2005, pp. 325-351. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu

The above paper tried to answer the question of the factors that go into the perceptions of young adults’ wishful identification, that is the desire to be like or act like a character. They organized a list of perceived character attributes (smart, successful, attractive, funny, violent, and admired) and determined the most wishfully identified with character traits. They found that males tended to want to be like male characters that they perceived as successful, intelligent, and violent, whereas women identified with female characters that were perceived as successful, intelligent, attractive, and admired. The above research helps to determine a difference between older audiences preferred traits and the genders that preferred them. The knowledge that women liked attractive and admired characters versus men liking more violent characters can help to focus in my thoughts on what to look for in a sample of children’s TV shows’ gendered characters; violence in male characters and attractiveness and admiration for female characters.


Liben, Lynn S., and Rebecca S. Bigler. “The Developmental Course of Gender Differentiation: Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Evaluating Constructs and Pathways.” Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, vol. 67, no. 2, 2002, pp. 1-147. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu

Liben and Rebecca set out to determine how exactly gender differentiation unfolds to stop a classic situation of gender stereotyping possibly limiting individual expression. They state that gender differentiation might come about from consumption of general ideas about specific concepts (toys, jobs, etc.) and then be applied to other various aspects (including themselves). They then also say that the same process can happen, but the child instead focuses on themselves to determine their ideas. This could be shown simply through two scenarios, one where a male child likes a toy, and using their identity, they identify that toy as male toy, and another where a male child identifies that toy as male, and then plays with it, identifying himself as a male. This understanding of some possible gender differentiation ideas can help to understand to what extent TV and culture has on gender and gender identity, serving a purpose for my research and developing my understanding.


Miller, M. M., and Byron Reeves. “Dramatic TV Content and Children’s Sex Role Stereotypes.” Journal of Broadcasting, vol. 20, no. 1, 1976, pp. 35-50. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/60878348?accountid=11107.

In the above paper, Miller and Byron asked the question of whether the portrayal of women in TV in non-traditional occupations would make a child (3rd – 6th grade) say that the non-stereotypical role was fitting for women. The findings showed that in 5 out of 6 cases, children who were exposed to non-stereotypical in TV would say that the role seen was fitting for girls. They found that, in general, TV causes sex-role stereotyping in children, but this could be reversed, and TV could become a factor in helping society break down these sex-role stereotypes. This study helps to further back the main idea that children’s TV can and will affect their view on other people and genders. (and the roles associated with them) The further backing helps to both strengthen the argument of this paper, but also strengthen the argument of any other papers that dealt with TV and children’s thoughts on gender roles.


Pila, Sarah C. The “Good Girls”: Exploring Features of Female Characters in Children’s Animated Television, Tufts University, Ann Arbor, 2015. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu

Sarah begins the paper by stating a goal of determining how animated children’s (ages 6 – 12) cartoons portray women in general. Sarah mentions that there could be possible unknown effects of children being exposed to cartoons that portray women in a specific way. Generally, Sarah found that animated TV portrays twice as many male characters when compared to female characters, and that female conversations are more stereotypical in educational TV. Sarah’s extensive usage of other research and relating to the social cognitive theory of children’s development helps to ground and explain her thought processes clearly. Sarah states that her findings are that women are portrayed less and that they tend to be portrayed as more youthful and ‘attractive’ than the male characters. If we accept that children practice social learning, this may lead us to understand why children tend to simply fall into the gender dichotomy that is classically portrayed, girl actions and boy actions, and no mingling of the two.

Fresh off the Boat episode 4 review, Success, Success, and… Perms!

Ah, the family success struggle, a very relatable topic to many. It seems like many families always have the dynamic of one well-off sub-section of their family, and all the rest looking on in envy. In the fourth episode of ‘Fresh off the Boat,’ this very theme comes up and is portrayed surprisingly well.

Curls = Power, this is another, albeit humorous, ‘theme’ that is explained to the audience. Chinese. Love. Curls. (apparently)

Even if the family dynamic above isn’t something you can related to, almost everyone can relate to the classic ‘family get-together.’ In ‘Fresh off the Boat,’ the get-together is used as a device to bring about the conflict, and the major theme. The show makes a statement towards the end of the episode, that being that money and success are all important, but sometimes in your effort to show off, you may fail to see that the people you are trying to show off to also have their own problems.

This theme of showing off and competitiveness is shown in the Huang family’s actions in preparations for their family visiting. They put their youngest kids into the pantry to sleep, making sure that their family doesn’t notice that the house doesn’t have enough room for visitors, they get a fake fax line, to make it seem like their restaurant is successful, and they get the ‘success perms’ from which the episode gets its name.

Their visiting family also does certain things to show off. Jessica’s sister gets fake breasts and Jessica’s brother-in-law Steve even drives the full trip to Florida in his sports car to show off.

Eventually, both families realize that they are both going through problems, Steve is in debt like Louis, and Jessica and her sister still have to fight for the very little love their mother shows. Eddie even goes through his own little version of this. He attempts to show off his knowledge of hip-hop to his cousin, but when his cousin comes over and listens, he says that hip-hop is for kids, and that he doesn’t listen to it anymore. Eddie, like his family, realize that their family have as many problems as they do, and that it wasn’t worth the effort to try and show off.

The theme portrayed in this episode can be observed in almost every family get-together. Everyone tries to show their family how pretty their house is and how well they are doing, but in that, they forget that their family’s situation is probably more like their own than they think.

An AESTHETIC Introduction or, How to get Off the Boat

Hello all, my name is James Peavy, and I am a first-year Psychology major. (but I am probably going to switch into IE for Financial Systems) I hope to graduate in 2022, but it is very possible that I graduate a year or so later. I really enjoy a genre of music called Vaporwave (specifically its sub-genre ‘Future Funk’), and I advise everyone to try to listen to a bit of it. (it can be some good study music!)

Its just as much about the aesthetics as it is the music.

This isn’t my first English class at Georgia Tech, so I am familiar with the WOVEN modes and how things are structured. I am looking forward to a ‘slower’ English class than my ENGL 1101 class in the summer.

I personally like written communication the best because it lets me fully flesh out an idea before I officially ‘present’ it to someone else. On the flip side, I dislike oral communication because it forces you to quickly speak your mind or convey your opinion, and because you are given little time, your view might not be as fleshed out as you would like. I hope to improve my oral communication skills, and find out how to quickly add to a discussion in a meaningful and worth-while way.

I have little experience with TV and feminism, but I do have some understanding of feminism’s core values and teachings. TV is a thing of the past for me, I used to watch a lot while eating dinner when I was a kid, but after that phase I decided that YouTube contains a great deal of good, easily consumable, media.

I decided to review “Fresh Off the Boat” mostly due to its funny name and my knowledge of the history behind that name. I also enjoy the idea of watching a sitcom with an Asian family as the focus because I can’t recall any other series doing that. (usually its a white family)

Looking forward to seeing this show, glad I have an excuse to watch it!

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