Asian America let out a collective sigh of relief last week after the double-episode premiere of Fresh Off the Boat aired on ABC. The title alone had been enough to cause worry: Would this be another vehicle for tired stereotypes and lazy jokes?
My two sons, 15 and 13, spent the evening with me (and my computer, as #FreshOfftheBoat trended nationwide) to watch the first primetime sitcom in more than two decades featuring an Asian American family.
The show isn’t perfect. Critics note the actors’ accents, the depiction of the “Tiger Mother” against the emasculated Asian male, and the use of the word “chink” in the pilot. Despite these concerns, we see an Asian American cast addressing everyday experiences specific to minority families in the US. Given the absence of such stories from mainstream entertainment, how could this perspective be a trope?
While most new network shows, especially those premiering mid-season, fall below the radar, Fresh Off the Boat has been scrutinized by the media and by Asian American viewers. As The Atlantic wrote, while the Asian American community represents great diversity, we’re all looking for aspects of the show that’ll resonate with us:
It needs to be universal enough to avoid alienating non-Asian-Americans, but specific enough to avoid feeling like a neutered and defanged version of the multivalent, complicated Asian American "experience." It also has to be really funny. But not offensive.
Away from the grown-up analysis, I could tell from my teenage sons that the show had achieved that. Our viewing was peppered with their comments, abbreviated stories, and laughter as they watched 11-year-old Eddie Huang and his family ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more