So I’ve avoided discussing gender in Fresh Off the Boat. I wanted to give the show a chance to defend itself – but I’m low on topics so the time has arrived. Now I have to give a bit of a disclaimer – this show is a satire. It plays off stereotypes for comedy, so it should be expected that some of those are going to seep into gender.
For starters, In terms of screen time, there is only one lead female roll and that is Jessica Huang. The grandma rarely gets screen time and has very few lines. It is only for comedic sake, but it still rings true that females don’t get much time. In this particular episode they got far more time than usual, because it followed the story line of Jessica instead of Eddie.
In this episode in particular the topic focuses on Eddie Huang’s crush on an older girl. All she cared about was dropping out of school to go to beauty school… ok. This is problematic. But they don’t portray all women like this. The only female main roll is the mom, Jessica Huang. She is obsessed with being the best at everything and encourages her kids to be the same. Her determination is so strong that she temporarily quits her efforts to become a realtor because she is worried she will not be the best realtor in the district. So we have a strong female lead. She’s determined to work her hardest and refuses to even be associated with stay at home moms, because she wants to be associated with the image of a powerful working woman. The side characters are stuck in the past. We have the previously mentioned crush. In addition, we have a huge culture of stay at home moms that the show features who are aggressively conservative and look down upon working mothers (bad) but the show frames them in a way that is clear that they are looked down upon for not supporting fellow women (good). In this episode in particular one of the moms tries to encourage Jessica to work hard to accomplish her dreams, while playing the role of a very stereotypical mom.
Although the show presents gender through stereotypes, it endorses women being proud of who they are, and supporting other women. In the end that’s the whole message of the show, be who you are.