Black Culture in Asian American Television

The topic for the class this week was Asian Americans on TV. Our topic featured two Asian American sitcoms All-American Girl and Fresh off the boat. All-American Girl is a 1994 Asian American sitcom featuring Margareth Cho as a non-traditional teenage daughter in a traditional Korean-American family. The show was the first network sitcom to feature a predominantly Asian American cast. Nearly 20 years later, a comedy series called Fresh off the Boat appeared. It is the first American TV sitcom to feature an Asian American family as protagonists to air on primetime since All-American Girl. The two sitcoms have a lot of similarities other than both featuring an Asian American family as protagonists. First is that both shows was set in the mid-90s. The main protagonist for each show were rebellious characters who was struggling with assimilation. Each show also featured a “tiger mom” who was always protective of their children and a father who seems to embrace the “American Dream”. With that being said, they also have many differences. One of the notable differences is that All-American Girl didn’t had any influence of black culture while the protagonist for Fresh off the Boat, Eddie Huang, was a hip-hop loving person. This paper will try to address some of the reasons as to why there is a difference of black influence in both shows and what could have happened if this was not the case.

The 90s was a different time, the decade featured the rise of multiculturalism, alternative media, the thawing of the cold war, and many more significant changes globally. Considering All-American Girl was aired and set in the middle of the 90s, 1994-1995, it made me wonder why there wasn’t any influence of black culture within the show. Part of the 90s were considered the golden age of hip hop – something that many considers part of black culture. In Fresh off the Boat, little Eddie Huang will usually be seen wearing brightly colored loose clothes which synonymous to hip hop and will usually strike poses similar to hip hop rappers Notorious B.I.G. and Run DMC after nailing a rhyme. Contrast to this, All-American Girl not only completely lacked the influence of hip hop, it was also completely void of the influence of black culture as a whole. Why is that? Additionally, the 90s was also considered the golden age of basketball – a sport dominated by a lot of African-Americans in the United States. This was a time when having a pair of iconic Air Jordans was like having a treasure to a lot people. One would think that considering the early 90s was part of the golden age of hip hop and basketball, it would make sense to influence the show with black culture to represent the times like Fresh off the Boat did. Perhaps it has something to do with the time. Indeed, both shows was set in 1994. However, both shows was produced and was initially aired almost 20 years apart. Perhaps, back then, they didn’t realize that they were living in the golden age of basketball and hip hop and people only recognized this after the era. Also, the years 1994 and 1995 featured one of the most famous American trials in the trial of OJ Simpson murder case, a retired American football player who was tried on two accounts of murder. Maybe the producers of the show found the most publicized criminal trial in American history to be too negative to influence the show with black culture.

I personally think that if All-American Girl was influence with black culture, the show would have reached more audience. Because by not doing so, they missed an opportunity to reach the audience of the largest racial minority in the United States. With this, the ratings would have probably been a lot higher than it was. Therefore, the show might have stayed for another season if not more. Who knows what would have happened after that? One could only speculate. But, maybe Asian Americans would have been less stereotyped if the show lasted for a couple more years.

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