Has anyone seen the new show “Fresh Off the Boat?” I have to say when I first saw the commercial for this show with my friend Lauren I was so excited. I couldn’t believe they were making a show about my childhood! If you haven’t heard of this show, it’s based on a memoir by chef and food personality Eddie Huang and his life as a first generation Asian-American growing up in the states with traditional Asian parents.
Well, boyfriend and I finally watched it yesterday and I have to say I am thoroughly disappointed.
The beginning of the first episode starts off completely accurate. When Eddie Huang comes home asking for “white people food” after being laughed at in the school cafeteria for “eating worms,” it took my back to my middle school days when my mom packed me Indian food and the kids at school stared at me with a disgusted face and said “EWWWW WHAT IS THAT???” (kids can be so cruel). Every time there after when my mom tried to pack me Indian food I would beg her for anything else. I was subjected to peanut butter and honey sandwiches for the remainder of my middle school career.
And then there was the reference to the difference between how grades are viewed between American and Asian parents. This is a source of so much comedy with any Asian comedian.
So when the white kid next door brings home straight C’s and is rewarded with a basketball hoop and Eddie Huang brings home straight A’s and is rewarded with even more school work, it was nothing I hadn’t expected.
And of course there are tons of hilarious jokes about how cheap Asian mothers are. All funny and true (to some extent).
But it was what followed in the second half of each episode that will probably stop me from watching this show. After Eddie skips out on his mother while she is trying to make him do additional school work, his dad and him have a heart to heart about how he doesn’t get to have any fun. This scene ends with Eddie and his dad playing basketball and his mother sending Eddie’s other two brothers to stop studying and join them.
There are so many things wrong with this scene I don’t even know where to begin. First and foremost, every Asian kid knows better than to complain about doing work and that they don’t have fun. Sure, it’s a thought that crossed all of our minds as children; while everyone else was at a boy-girl party we had to be locked in our rooms studying, and if there was no homework to be done, we were trapped with our fathers learning the next topic in math. And you were especially out of luck if you brought home your math book because my dad had no problem making me do the even problems that were never assigned to me. Did I ever once ask my dad if I could hang out with friends instead? Absolutely not. I don’t need an addition 100 problems. Did it ever cross my mind? You bet. Everyday. What would have happened if I ran away the way Eddie did? I wouldn’t want that punishment.
And then there’s Eddie’s little brother who has two girlfriends and his dad says something to the effect of “you go boy, just don’t tell mom.” That would never, ever, happen. Not in a million years. Unless the other two girls were also Korean. If it was Eddie’s sister, she would be dead.
And then there’s Eddie’s mother who tries to fit in with the American neighbors. I have never met an Indian lady trying to fit in with her American neighbors. Immigrants FLOCK, like CRAZY. It’s a little shocking really how they find each other. I grew up in a small part of Maryland where you wouldn’t think a single Indian existed. But they were there. My mom may have had to drive 20 minutes away, but she found people. That’s what they do. They don’t try to “fit in” with the neighbors (unless they are also Indian).
So why does ABC change the stories around so much? The reality is this: the truth wouldn’t make good t.v. In fact, it would depress half of you, and the other half would just be bored. It would be the same ending everyday; Eddie studying. The only episodes that would be entertaining would be when Eddie tried to defy his parents, but there is absolutely nothing funny about those situations. This show is completely Americanized to make good t.v. and to entertain the American populus this show is geared towards. In fact, even when the press were given an opportunity to question the directors and cast members, they hardly asked any questions about the show and instead asked them about fortune cookies and chopsticks. I recently found out that Eddie Huang too has an issue with this portrayal of his memoir; “The network tried to turn my memoir into a cornstarch sitcom and me into a mascot for America. I hated that.” (read the full article HERE).
Sons and daughters of immigrant parents did not leave glamorous lives or funny ones. We had to live our lives up to our parents standards, living by their rules, and face the harsh consequences when we don’t. Most of us were forced to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers and then go on to marrying someone of our own race. Everything must be approved by our parents, and most of our lives are arranged by our parents. We have to go to college, we have to be number 1 in our class, we have to get straight A’s. We hardly had fun outside of school except with our other Asian friends. We weren’t allowed to hang out with anyone of the opposite sex, never the less have a boyfriend, except for the rare situation where said boyfriend/girlfriend was also Asian and extremely smart. Education was our life and there was little we were allowed to do outside of that.
But the thing is, our parents are completely and totally justified in acting like this. They really did come to America to live the American dream. My father came to America in his early 20s and worked as a chicken farmer until he was able to save enough money to bring my mother to America and eventually build a beautiful life for me so that I could have endless opportunities; opportunities that he did not have growing up in India. He left all of his family and friends behind to build a new life here.
That is one thing that really bothers me about this show (among so many other things); this show keeps talking about how his parents “miss their friends in Washington D.C” completely ignoring that his parents came from Korea! That’s where his family and friends are that he truly left behind. Not another part of America! My parents moved around America 4 or 5 times since they first arrived. Each time they made new friends, kept in touch even to this day, but it’s their friends in India that they consistently miss and talk about, not their friends in Alabama!
Now, I’m not denying this show is hilarious. I just finished watching the third episode and I have to admit it is a pretty hilarious show. What bothers me about it is that they try to play off this show as “the struggles the children of immigrants go through” and it’s just not true. So watch the show because Eddie Huang is at hilarious kid with a hilarious family. Just expect the accuracies to be kept to a minimum.