English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #EddieHuang

Fresh Off the Gender Stereotypes

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.

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the family-friendly “yo mama”

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.

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that’s the tea

Fitting In

One of the biggest themes of this show is about the family fitting in in their new community in Florida after moving from Washington, DC. Every family member has their own issue(s) with their new environment, except Evan of course. Evan fit in just fine and even has a girlfriend when he’s like 10 years old. Eddie, the main character, goes to many lengths to fit in at his school. This is really interesting because it is relatable for so many kids that are a minority. Being the only or one of the only kids in the class of a certain race can definitely be very difficult. From first experience, it’s easy to want to fit in with everyone else, even if it goes against your own values or family traditions. This show does a great job at showing the struggles a minority family without crossing the line with offensive stereotypes. The kids at Eddie’s school think he’s lame because he does not have Jordan shoes, and not going to lie I bought Jordan shoes for the same reason. One lesson of the episode is shown through Eddie’s mother. She’s having trouble finding other women in her neighborhood, Honey, that she gets along with, until one day she meets a neighbor and gets along with her really well. The only problem is that all the other women of the neighborhood hate Honey and this could potentially be bad for the family business. She initially decides to cut the friendship off, but later realizes that she should be true to her real friend, even if she will face adversity in the future for doing so. This scene demonstrates the purpose of staying true to yourself, and the people who care about you. Hopefully Eddie follows the same path as his mom, but that does not seem very likely at the moment.

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Eddie has high expectations lol

Fresh Jordan’s… Fresh Writing… Fresh Off the Boat

“Home Sweet, Home School”, the second Episode of Fresh off the Boat, really sets up the way the rest of the show will operate based on the style of the writers. A team of four is responsible for writing this episode, including Kourtney Kang (known for her role as a producer of How I Met Your Mother) and Eddie Huang, the focus of the autobiography and the narrator of the show. I think part of what makes this show so interesting is that Eddie narrates his own past life. He knows exactly how he felt in the moment and how he feels now that he’s grown up. As much insight as this offers, it’s also valid to check ourselves with how much we trust him- I mean he is writing out his life for the world. The combination of he and Kourtney Kang in writing this episode makes for an interesting personality in the writing- with her Emmy nominated comedy writing skills and his life experience it really makes the show a worthwhile watch both as a social commentary and as a chill binge watch.

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the best of both worlds ;)

This show is absolutely filled with noise. There is literally never silence. Even when the character to character dialogue isn’t going, there’s Biggie, Stephen King movies, NASCAR races, 90s hip-hop, and restaurant chatter in the back. The amount of constant noise makes the show really full and fun to watch. AND DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON EPISODE THREE
My goodness, when Evan did the voice over of the white moms talking at the neighborhood meeting, I laughed harder than I have in a while. Between the hip-hop tracks which emphasize Eddie’s moods, the clapback narrations, and Evan… well, being Evan, this show doesn’t stop with the jokes. The writing of this show is just absolutely on point for the message of it. The constant allusions to quintessential American favorites- Whitney Houston, Biggie Smalls, Karaoke, NASCAR, Blockbuster, block parties, basketball, denim jorts, and Jordan’s- make this show what it is. Hilarious.

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Jessica having her Whitney moment #mood

More Homework Means “I Love You”

For this blog post I chose to discuss the theme of season 1 episode 2 – Home Sweet Home-School. This episode focuses heavily on family values versus personal wants and needs.

To begin with, here is a quick summary of the episode. It begins with Jessica Huang being disappointed that her son, Eddie, got straight A’s because school is too easy. Evan is annoyed with Jessica because she is too commanding at the restaurant so he sends her to tutor the boys afterschool for more stimulating work. Eddie is annoyed by this because he wants the free time to play outside like the American boys. While Jessica is gone, Evan bonds with restaurant employees and makes the restaurant a more joyful environment. Eventually, Eddie discovers what his dad has done, and helps his mom Jessica catch him, so she moves the studies to the restaurant. A few boys dine and dash on the restaurant which would not have happened had Jessica taken care of it instead of Evan. When a few of the workers offer to pay for the meal themselves, Jessica realizes that the restaurant is benefiting from spending money to foster a better environment. She tracks down the boys who dined and dashed and forces them to apologize to Evan to restore his faith in the goodness of people. She also gives the boys the afternoon off from their studies in order to play basketball with their dad.

Throughout this episode, every character learns a lesson. Jessica learns that relationship growth and happiness are also worth time and money. She begins to change her actions at the end of the episode. By giving Eddie free time and forcing the boys to apologize to Evan, she shows how her perspective and values have shifted.

Eddie learns a similar lesson, while playing basketball with his dad and siblings. While he plays, one of the neighborhood boys approaches him and is jealous that his family pays attention to him. His dad was playing basketball with him and that shows how much his dad cares. He then finally understands how much his mom cares. All together the family realizes the importance of prioritizing each other’s needs and recognizes that they show their care in untraditional ways. They don’t say “I love you” but they show it.

The Huang family does not say they love each other unless they are hiding something. They show their love in different ways.

This connects to the rest of the show by proving that the Huang family doesn’t have to conform to look and act like those around it. All the other families don’t spend as much time together or don’t care about grades that much, because the members of the family don’t care about each other that much. The Huang family can be unique and independent and has nothing to envy from other families.

This is what the show is trying to portray to the audience. All families or individuals are special in their own way and being different from those around you isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All families and individuals are unique and awesome in their own way!

Fresh Off the…Caddyshack?

Entitled “Showdown at the Golden Saddle,” the seventh episode of season one finds the Huang family pretty well settled into life in Orlando.  Keith Heisler wrote this episode and several other episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, as well as numerous episodes of American Dad! and Guys with Kids.  In addition to writing for these shows, Heisler has also produced multiple episodes for each show.  (see: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1510546/)

“Showdown at the Golden Saddle” is written very similarly to most episodes of Season One: Jessica and Louis argue/make up/bond, Eddie desperately tries to get a pretty girl to notice him, and Emery and Evan are perfect angels.

Since I knew I would be focusing on the show’s writing as I watched this episode, I paid extra close attention to dialogue, music, and references made by characters.  As with all other episodes, “Showdown at the Golden Saddle” is narrated by the real-life Eddie Huang, so it’s as if grown-up Eddie is reminiscing on his childhood.  This perspective shows viewers that our narrator knows exactly how everything will turn out because he lived it.

Intercharacter dialogue doesn’t make up all the noise in the show—we hear lots of exclamations and comments that characters make to only themselves.  However, we don’t get much silence in Fresh Off the Boat.  While there are frequent periods in which nobody speaks, these gaps are typically filled by rap songs, R&B songs, or background chatter.  This constant noise creates a stimulating, fast-paced effect, and I believe this intentionally symbolizes the tone of Eddie Huang’s childhood.

Generally, Fresh Off the Boat characters drop plenty of pop culture references: Eddie’s friends talk about the latest coveted video game, Jessica is obsessed with Stephen King movies, and of course, Eddie frequently shares his latest obsession in the rap music world.  However, in this episode, I found my favorite reference ever: Caddyshack.  When Jessica learned that Louis’s success at Cattleman’s Ranch landed the two of them a spot at a party at the local country club, she expects the place to run exactly as Bushwood Country Club did.  Even though she embarrasses Louis when she quotes the movie at the dinner (“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”), her enthusiasm over visiting a completely new environment is palpable.  I think the show was intentionally written that way, too.  Jessica’s only expectations for a country club came from a highly stereotyped sports comedy, so naturally, her assumptions greatly differed from reality.  When the characters get most of their expectations from movies and TV, their reactions when they actually experience these things is humorous.

Overall, Fresh Off the Boat is written lightheartedly, but below the comedic surface, it depicts childhood the way Eddie Huang remembers it.  Every kid struggles to fit in at some point, but as the child of immigrants, that difficulty is magnified.  With both comedy and not-quite-but-almost-documentary, Fresh Off the Boat’s writers certainly have a full plate, but so far, they’re excelling.

The sole reason Jessica enjoyed Caddyshack, amiright

the story about a little guy that lives in a blue world

The first episode of Fresh off the Boat is about as provocative as one can get when it comes to social issues for POC and immigrant families in the US. The writers of this show certainly aren’t scared to put their opinions and experiences out there, I mean Eddie Huang even named the main protagonist after himself. I thought Arvin’s commentary about the irony of the title was interesting too, essentially remarking that the family isn’t really fresh off the boat (from China or anywhere), but really from D.C., a markedly American town… and by saying ‘American’, let’s be perfectly clear that I mean all kinds of Americans. Chinatown very much being included. For that reason, I felt that Arvin’s observation shone a riveting spotlight on the theme of the storyline: that all people, background and skin color aside, are equal, but are treated as if they aren’t.

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uh oh…racism? *sips tea*

Personally, I enjoy the way that Eddie Huang brings us this theme. He doesn’t do so in a condescending or stark manner, but rather uses comedy, like Eddie’s quirky obsession with Nas, or the use of slang by the stereotypical ~cringy~ dad, plus a very stereotypical accent as the cherry on top. Because this theme is so provocative, especially in today’s political climate, the comic relief more effectively communicates Huang’s side of the story. As Eddie says as he’s preaching his life plan to his parents at the dinner table, he’s taking “a seat at the table” in a conversation far larger than himself or the show. By representing this Chinese American family as the focus of the story, and really by daring to tell their side of the story, Huang not only communicates the theme but tells it through a lens of respect and empathy which makes his message more tender and approachable.

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and so is this theme, @Eddie

If we’re really honest, we all know people get treated differently, whether you lie on the side of privilege or not so much so. Overall, I have already really attached to the characters. I enjoy them. And I enjoy their story. The one with less privilege, the real one, the awkwardness, and the struggle. This theme, so clear yet so delicately presented, is still very much present and poignant in Fresh off the Boat. And so far, I’m diggin’ it.

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i <3 fotb

Works Cited:

Huang, Edwyn. “Fresh off the Boat.” Season 1, episode 1, Hulu, 2015.

Upcoming Asian Rapper: Eddie Huang

My first review blog is about the first episode of season one of Fresh Off the Boat. I was really impressed by the writing in the pilot and it gave me a great first impression of the show. The entire show is actually based on a book written and based on the life of Eddie Huang. According to IMDb, Eddie Huang was one of the most prominent writers of the show along with Nahnatchka Khan who is also the creator of the show. The show does have voice overs that are done by Eddie Huang himself. The narration is used as a frame for the show and only comes on at the beginning and end of the episode which emphasizes how the episodes are like memories and the narration act as intros and summarizations at the end. This voiceover is significantly different than the one from Jane the Virgin where the narrator gives explanations throughout the episodes. Another interesting aspect of the show is that the episodes are generally flashbacks of the past while the voiceovers are in present time.

The writers kept the script very genuine and included grammar mistakes in the dialogues of the Mom in order to highlight her accent and emphasize her immigrant characteristics. The dialogue acknowledges racism and instead of conforming to it it attempts to undermine it by presenting it from Eddie Huang’s perspective. The repetitive use of colors such as “white” and “black” to describe races continues to make the dialogues seem realistic especially from the perspective of a kid in middle school. Silence is also implemented effectively, both to induce comedy after characters say jokes and to dramatize arguments. The writers used the repetition of Eddie saying “your never on my side” to his mom to reflect how he feels like an outsider even in his own house. However, what stands out most about the writing is the constant references to rap music, which really allows you to relate to Eddie. Overall, the show had very thought out and relatable writing that has me itching to keep watching!

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Me running to go watch the next episode

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