English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Lunchables

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.

FOTB: Giving a Voice to the Excluded

A major theme in the first two episodes of Fresh off the Boat is exclusion. It argues that exclusion comes in too many ways to count, especially non-traditional ways. For example, Eddie (11 year old main character) isn’t allowed to sit with some boys at lunch because his Chinese food smells bad to his classmates. While this isn’t “excluding him because of his race”, it actually is because the food is part of his culture, which is part of him and his family. Eddie just wants to belong and therefore is willing to conform to his classmates standards, just to make friends. The show focuses on the minor (and major)  ways that minorities are excluded and discriminated against. The Huang family is seemingly the only non-white family in the neighborhood, which makes them feel left out IN THEIR OWN HOME. Especially when the crazy white neighbor tells you “your English is so good” even though you were born in America…

I would eat these noodles over a Lunchable any      day

The show makes its argument not only by showing the exclusion that the Huang family faces, but also from the exclusion Eddie  faces within his own family. His two younger brothers get to go to the same school and sit on the same bus together, but he has to go alone. He LOVES rap music, but his family likes other music. His mom wants them to go to a CLC, Chinese Learning Center, to academically challenge them, while all the other boys his age get to play outside, make friends, and shoot hoops. Worst of all, his little brothers aren’t upset about doing CLC instead of being normal kids. Their relationships portray that even in a loving family, one can feel like an outsider. I think it’s unique because sometimes television families are just classified as “good” or “bad” and FOTB embraces the grey of family.


While this show is a sitcom that is supposed to be funny, it’s themes attack what is wrong with modern America. It can take a serious theme, like exclusion, and use humor to show how it affects people’s lives and I think that is so powerful. My favorite quote from these episodes comes from a conversation between Eddie and his mom. Eddie wants a Lunchable for his school lunch, instead of his mom’s Chinese food. She responds with “You want it to fit in a box? Why are you so American?”. Honestly this quote just stuck out to me and I felt the need to write it down because of how powerful it is. I love that comedy can become so political by using its following base to show what is wrong with our society. There is so much conformity & exclusion in America right now and it means we are missing out on a lot of unique people & ideas. Modern “entertainment” does wayyy more than entertain and I think Fresh off the Boat is the perfect example of media becoming political and thought provoking.

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