English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: N

Eddie Huang’s take on his memoir turned sit-com ‘Fresh Off the Boat’

Fresh Off the Boat is the first Asian American sit-com, to air on American prime-time television, in 20 years; it is based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir “Fresh Off the Boat.” Despite this Eddie Huang is quite the critic of the show saying, “I’m happy people of color are able to see a reflection of themselves through #FreshOffTheBoat on @ABCNetwork but I don’t recognize it.” and “I had to say something because I stood by the pilot. After that it got so far from the truth that I don’t recognize my own life.” Eddie has criticized the show for taking the easy route and twisting his story into something unrecognizable. “This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won’t take that gamble right now.” Fresh Off the Boat was meant to be a truly Asian-American story based on Eddie’s story; instead the route the producers decided to take completely diverge from that of Eddie’s story. Many Asian-American are still able to connect to the sit-com, but not in the way that Eddie had hope they would.

Over time Eddie has come to accept the sit-com as a gateway to more shows starring Asian-Americans. “”I don’t watch it, but I’m proud of what it does.” While Fresh Off the Boat diverge from his memoir, Eddie still understands the importance of having a TV show with Asian-Americans as its main cast. He has many acknowledgements to the fact that now with Fresh Off the Boat success that it has proven that diverse stories about Asian-Americans can be successful which could lead to better shows for the Asian minority in the future. “But for all the bullshit I heard at studios about universal stories and the cultural pus it perpetuates, I felt some truth in it.… It takes a lot of chutzpah to launch a network comedy with a pilot addressing the word “chink”, yet it works because it’s the safest bet the studio could have made.” 

While over time Eddie Huang has seen the benefit of having an Asian-American show on prime-time, it is still hard to see something he’s written turned into something that he is unable to recognize.

Eddie Huang Critics Fresh Off the Boat for diverging from the source.

Eddie Huang in real life is a clothing designer, restaurateur, TV host and author.

Gender and other stereotypes on “Fresh Off the Boat”

Fresh Off the Boat gets better with stereotypes and gender representations as the series continues. However like many other shows, it doesn’t deal well with tropes, stereotypes, and genders during the first season. Starting the series off, there are 2 main male characters, Eddie and Louis, and 1 main female character, Jessica, along with two other boys, Emery and Evans, and grandma Huang. Jessica is a stereotype Tiger Mom pushing her children to perform well in academics. Jessica is a typical housewife staying home taking care of the kids and house chores. Louis is a typical male breadwinner of the household working each day and being away from home. In season 1 episode 9 “License to Sell,” Jessica becomes a realtor, selling houses, however, she still isn’t able to break away from being a housewife. Even though she has a career, Jessica only really sells house when her kids are at school despite how successful she is. Fresh Off the Boat does present us with the fact that Jessica is truly the head of the household, instead of Louis, as she is seen commanding everyone around.

Near the end of season 1 episode 3, we are introduced to Nicole who is the beautiful girl on the block that Eddie instantly falls in love with. In this episode, we are shown how Eddie considers women more like objects of attraction. First, Eddie wants to use Honey to show off to his classmates in order to get friends; then we see Eddie fall in Nicole simply because of her beauty. Both also dress in slightly revealing outfits. Then later we meet Connie who is Jessica’s sister, Connie then tells us how she got fake breast implants. Also when we meet the neighborhood women in the “Pilot,” they are all in a group skating around the neighborhood; it was quite obvious that all the women were housewives and whenever we see them it’s with Jessica not allowing us to see their daily lives.

In Fresh Off the Boat, nearly everyone is straight with the exception being Nicole; however, we don’t learn about this until a later season. The most notable episode, about this, in the first season is episode ten “Blind Spot.” This is where we learn of Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Oscar, who is gay. The problem with the shows portrayal of Oscar is that they seem to of use every gay stereotype in the book. Oscar first is given a short of accent, then we learn that he is auditioning for the Aladdin Ice Show Spectacular. Later when Oscar gets out of the shower, he is wearing a pink robe and a “gaysian” necklace.

One inclusion that is notable is including Grandma Huang backstory of foot-binding that shows us what women had to deal with in old China.

Jessica being rightfully prideful about being able to sell a house that no one has been able to sell before.

Eddie tosses coupons at Honey as if he’s in a gentleman’s club

The Cinematography of “Fresh Off the Boat”

Unfortunately I don’t have much expertise on cinematography and direction of television production, so I hope to critique to the best of my ability. “Fresh Off the Boat” does well in avoiding the harsh lighting of the sun. It is great at diffusing the sunlight to ensure that everyone is softly lit at all times, so that us, viewers, can always have a good view of the characters’ features and attire. However, the constant soft lighting does make it seem unrealistic as it makes the entire production seem to either constantly be morning or evening. “Fresh Off the Boat” has a lot of moving shots keeping the select character in view making it easy for audiences to follow along with the show. However, the show does seem to have a slightly shaky camera sometimes; that I’m unsure if it’s intentional or not. It does seem to make it perhaps slightly more realistic, if intentional; however, if unintentional, it would make the production seem slightly less professional. Conversions are framed with the speaking character in focus to allow audiences to keep their eye on the target character as well as switching to the listening character for reactions allowing the audience to feel as if they understand each character at every moment. When there are two characters in the same shot that both have lines, the camera focuses in on the character that is currently talking; this allows the viewer to unconsciously change focus to the current subject. The show ensures that audience don’t get caught up with backgrounds by using mostly beige, soft browns, and low intensity yellows. I do admire the close-up of character faces, especially during reaction shots, as it allows the audience to see and understand the emotion of the characters. Each shot is fairly short often changing frames every few seconds; this is likely due to the short attention spans of current audiences that expect to be entertained at every second. These quick back and forth changes are a bit much for me, but it’s what many audiences expect of new shows and films. Something specific that’s done nice are Jessica’s flashbacks which are dulled out to represent the contradiction between her words and her memories. In the first episode, Jessica has a flashback to her time at the Taiwanese markets back in DC; her describes the memory lovingly, but when we’re shown the memory, it’s appears to be rather overwhelming with Jessica screaming and pushing.

In this shot, the camera is focus on Jessica with Eddie’s face slightly in focus so that we can see his reactions. The lighting outside seems to say it’s at least late morning, yet inside the car lighting is still soft.


“Fresh Off the Boat” Theme of Cultural Assimilation and Identity


A common repeating theme in “Fresh Off the Boat” is the struggle that immigrant families go through when they move to America. The struggle of maintaining their ancestral and individual culture; while at the same time trying to blend in with the American people around them. This comes into the shows forefront during the last episode of the first season of “Fresh Off the Boat.” During the episode, Jessica come to the realization that they had assimilated so far into American culture that their kids were starting to lose perspective of the ancestral culture that they came from. Jessica’s epiphany compounded through several events: Marvin mentioning that they seem like an average American family to him, Evan requesting to know how to say “can you say that in English” in Mandarin, and the fact that she cooked mac and cheese with bacon bits for dinner. In contrast in episode 3 “The Shunning,” Jessica made stinky tofu to take to the block party, a Chinese dish. In fact, what Marvin said was a response to Jessica calling themselves Asian-American with an emphasis on Asian. While it’s the main plot behind episode 13, it has sat in the background for a bit. In an earlier episode, Jessica asked why Eddie couldn’t just a good Chinese boy like Emery or Evan. This is made because Eddie seem to desire to become more like the rest of his classmates; while Emery and Evan were more stereotypical Chinese kids with good grades and Evans even paints some beautiful Chinese inspired art. The most noticeable lost of cultural identify can be seen through the three generations living in the house hold with the grandma being the most tradition and the kids being the most assimilated. In episode 11 “Very Superstitious,” there is a great example of this is the superstitious of the characters. The grandma is seen as being highly religious with incense, Jessica is highly superstitious having typical Chinese superstitions such as the number 4 being bad luck, this is then contrasted with Louis, who has assimilated further into American culture, being only superstitious about not having his jade necklace, and finally the kids aren’t shown to be superstitious, at least not in the traditional Chinese sense, in the episode. This was all use to symbolize how over several generations kids slowly get assimilated into the culture that they live in losing the cultural identity that their parents and grandparents had. This is a very common phenomenon in the real world often happening across three or so generations where the first generation that immigrates to America keeps their own culture passing it down on to their kids that mix it with the culture they live in. Finally, when they have their own kids they past much less of their culture along often with the third generation fully assimilating.

Jessica hopes to hold on to their native language by getting her entire family to only speak in Mandarin when at home.

Eddie wanting to be less Asian and more like his white friends representing the lost of cultural identity over the course of a few generations.

Nelson’s Annotated Biblography

Works Cited

Vancil-leap, Ashley. “Resistance and Adherence to the Gendered Representations of School Lunch Ladies.” Gender Issues, vol. 34, no. 1, 2017, pp. 67-85. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login? url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1867885669?accountid=11107,  doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12147-016-9170-9.

This article talks about the portrayal of lunch ladies in popular culture as “the witch” or “the mother” and how that hinders our understanding of the position of lunch lady. Lunch lady is often a low status, low paying occupation with female workers in need of finances. In the article, it’s mentioned how over the last two decades popular culture of lunch lady didn’t change very much and doesn’t show the fostering relationship lunch ladies often have with the kids that they serve the food to. The research seem to show that the negative image many lunch lady receive on television is used to justify the subpar pay and benefits they receive in the real world. This article has some value as it is a peer review source that had collected data across 20 years of popular media along with a year and a half of field research including working as a lunch lady and interviews. However, this article does not serve to have direct purpose as it talks of their portrayal across general media and not specifically Saturday Night Live, but could still serve to a useful resource.

Reincheld, Aaron. “”Saturday Night Live” and Weekend Update: The Formative Years of Comedy News Dissemination.” Journalism History, vol. 31, no. 4, 2006, pp. 190-197. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/205356448?accountid=11107.

The article argues that Saturday Night Live has been pivotal in creating a culture of American television satire. In the past thirty years, SNL has mainly targeted politics and politicians allowing for an evening of the political field. The SNL news parody segment, Weekend Update, helped to expand restrictions from censors by offering two different point of views of an event that week; which slowly started to restarted to look like a real newsroom overtime. The article intends to illustrate the impact that SNL had on the lives of its average 30 million viewers per week. The article has a good bit of value studying the inner workings of Saturday Night Live. They examine the development of the newscast over the first five years with the use of interviews as primary sources. The source is peer reviewed and seeks to understand the impact that Saturday Night Live and it’s Weekend Update segment has on not only the lives of its viewers, but also on the media and political landscapes. However the mistrust in the article does arrive, as the article seems to attempt to promote a point throughout the article.

Wagner, Kristen A. “”have Women a Sense of Humor?” Comedy and Femininity in Early Twentieth-Century Film.” Velvet Light Trap, no. 68, 2011, pp. 35-46. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/896625651?accountid=11107.

Women for a long while were considered unfunny in the world of comedy. This is because of the feminine ideal of the twentieth-century. That women are naturally delicate, morale, spiritual, and passive. And thus they are unsuited for the rough world of comedy. This cause women, that enter the comedy world, to have to adapt with one such way as downplaying their femininity and appearing more masculine. This also lead to the development of “feminine” comedy; which is considered to be more sensitive and emotional. It argues that women are very capable of comedy with several examples of successful female comedians. The old idea of the ideal woman not fit for comedy is outdated. The article holds some value as it’s written by Dr. Wagner, with PhD in critical studies, and copyrighted and upheld by University of Texas in Austin and seems to be providing a good bit of history. The article does not directly provide insight into women in SNL, but does give a history of women in comedy.

SHEFFIELD, ROB. “Saturday Night Live. 40 Years. 141 Cast Members. We Rank Them All. (Cover Story).” Rolling Stone, no. 1229, 26 Feb. 2015, pp. 30-43. EBSCOhost, prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=100950742&site=ehost-live.

This a compiled ranking list of all SNL cast members in the last forty years; the authors rank them based on who they believed were the best to the worst. The entire list is as they describe it. “A passionate, definitive, opinionated, subjective, irresponsible and indefensible breakdown of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”  They ranked them purely based on their onscreen acts, both actresses and actors alike. They rank big names to even some small names in hopes of being inclusive, but the ranking only values their onscreen impact and not any of the offscreen effort they may of had to put in. I believe this will be a valuable resource, as although it’s on the opinionated side, it lists all the cast members which will allow us to sort out the male and female cast members of SNL over the 4 decades that they have aired. The article is, however, 3 and a half years old, so it may not list any recently new cast members. It does give us a fairly extensive list of who can be considered as a cast member of SNL.

Meadows, Susannah. “LADIES of the NIGHT.” Newsweek, vol. 139, no. 14, Apr. 2002, p. 54. EBSCOhost, prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=6416808&site=ehost-live.

More women deserve to be on the staff of Saturday Night Live. It argues that the good ratings from about 2000 to 2002 for SNL were mainly achieved by three funny women in the SNL writing room. Saturday Night Live started out with equal opportunity with about 3 women to 3 men in 1975, but that changed as time went on, by  1993, the ratio changed to 3 women to 8 men. By 2002, the ratio was around 3 women for 19 men. Though as SNL Michaels said, it isn’t because of a quota system, but rather the reason is due to the fact that SNL performs parody and the news is filled with more men it would lead to a system that required more male staff. The article though trending on pushing a point does provide insight to the ratio of men to women at SNL if for nothing else then for writers. It may not prove to useful being so short.

Leano, Jessica. “The Agenda-Setting Power of Saturday Night Live.” Www.elon.edu, Elon University, 2014, www.elon.edu/u/academics/communications/journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/153/2017/06/09LeanoEJSpring14.pdf.

The article is effectively peered reviewed via two doctorates: Dr. George Padgett and Dr. Byung Lee. The article involves great value on Saturday Night Live relying on a historical perspective in order to avoid bias. It tries to study the effect that SNL has on its audience and their actions in politics. It attempts to analyzes the political power of SNL. It attempts to answer the questions: “How, and to what extent, did Saturday Night Live set the political agenda?” Even though SNL uses jokes and makes light of reality, it does have a heavy influence on the political world, especially through its political satire, by influencing the thoughts and perspectives of its viewers. The influence on people’s opinions and perceptions, termed “SNL Effect,” is expected to increase as time continues. The articles makes use of previously acquired data and research to bolster itself and attempts to include both sides of the argument to increase its reliably. The article can be made of use to double check facts on other articles that have received less review.

Episode 3 of Fresh Off the Boat: Writer’s meaning?

Within the script of Fresh Off the Boat Season 1 Episode 3 “The Shunning”, the writers appear to of cleverly included some moments that are speed through in order to represent a point. These include lines that seem to represent real life problems and how they are often ignored when brought up. Such when Grandma Huang brings up foot binding, “My feet were bound when I was seven.” This reflects the problem of elderly women in China that were the victims of foot binding often being ignored by the general population as when she mentions those lines they are quickly distracted by Louis’s interjection. At the same moment, this kind of passing on shows that this is the type of stuff they expect out of Grandma Huang as it isn’t out of place enough to them for any sort of conversation to happen. The show later  presents the close-mindedness of the neighbor women when Jessica offers them stinky tofu and their unwillingness to try present by Jessica comically saying, “How is this fuller than before?” This also seems to suggest that the Huang family perhaps moved into a more gated neighbor that’s a bit more close off from the world. The writers also cleverly choose to depict Jessica’s characteristic cheap and cold personality by letting Eddie ask her if he could buy Air Jordans without letting Jessica speak as he knew exactly what his mom would say. Later at the block party, the neighborhood women says that Jessica is cutting the cake evenly “Because of the communism in your country?” This is again is used to show the neighborhood women as being ignorant and gated, as since the Huang family are from Taiwan, they don’t come from a communist country but rather a capitalistic one. The writers later highlight the focus of Louis Huang with “You know who win every race? The advertising companies.” This showing that what’s foremost in his mind is the sucess of the restaurant. While grandma Huang response to the NASCAR race was “At those speeds it wouldn’t take much tampering to get revenge on your enemies.” This either suggest the dark personality that she has, or some dark intention that she is planning out just being hinted at. The writers do well to seek the lines in giving a different viewing experience to those that pay close attention and have active imaginations.

Implication that she was a victim of the common tradition of foot binding that was in China for much of history.


An individual’s English 1102 Introduction

Hello to all passersby, I’m Nelson Jiang. I’m currently a Material Science and Engineering major (subject to be changed with little notice), and I’m expected to be a 2022 Graduate (might be a bit of a stretch).

English 1102 is my first English class at GA Tech as I had taken the standard AP English (AP Lang & AP Lit) pathway in high school and was lucky enough to get the credit for English 1101. As I’ve struggled with languages in my early life, my relationship with English has not been good often being the class I struggle the most in. I enjoy and would like to improve my written and oral communication. However what I most struggle in would be nonverbal and visual communication, those are two communication skills that I still haven’t quite got the hang of yet. Interpretation of nonverbal and visual communication is a bit hard for me, and I’m often unable to understand the meaning that the author had intended. I really hope to get better with the entire spectrum of WOVEN communication.

As with the theme of the course, I haven’t watched television in perhaps four to five years and even then most of what I had watched were kiddie educational cartoons. I did really like Curious George and Martha Speaks as a kid. Most of my viewing screen time goes to YouTube. Most of what I know from television, I’ve picked up from conversations with my friends. As for feminism, I have a habit of wanting to stay in the middle as a moderate and avoid the two divisive sides of politics, so I don’t know much about feminism. Though I do hope to learn more about it, if possible in a nonpolitical sense. My experience with feminism is mostly limited to the Feminist Critique from AP Lit and learning about feminism in history classes.

I’ll be reviewing Fresh Off the Boat for my blog entries. The show is loosely based on Eddie  Huang and his book Fresh Off the Boat. It’s about Chinese-Taiwanese family, from Chinatown in Washington,DC, that sets up a restaurant in Orlando, Florida with a dad that loves the American Dream, a mom that struggles to understand the culture, and kids that try to fit in. The family tries to fit into American cultural; whilst struggling to maintain a sense of their own Taiwanese culture. I choose this by looking through the entire list of recommended shows, looking through their synopsis, and watching the first 10 minutes of each show that interested me. I choose Fresh Off the Boat over the other shows on the list as I felt it was the first time I’ve seen a show try to connect with the upbringing of a first-generation Asian-American family. I connect with it as my sibling and me are first generation Asian-Americans with an immigrant family from China.

This was my parents at the end of each term during most of my school career.

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