Can Conflicting Agendas Produce a Successful Show ?

Fresh off the Boat is in particular significant because it is the first time in 20 years that a network television station featured an Asian American family at its center. The show brings visibility to Asian Americans, as they are typically not the main lead in TV shows and movies. There is a lot of excitement and buzz surrounding the show, especially because now Asians Americans have a show they can relate to. The cast addresses and portrays stereotypes associated with Asian Americans, while using the show as a platform to challenge the hegemonic ideology surrounding Asian Americans to ensure that an accurate cultural perspective is being represented. At the same time the show has to balance two conflicting agenda, which are an accurate cultural perspective because it is representing the Asian American community and the political economy. The show is a good example of how two conflicting agendas, works together to produce a successful and relatable show. It also begs the question whether amplifying these stereotypes perpetuates the ideological hegemony of Asian Americans or whether it combats it in a smart way. It is important to question that aspect since this show is an important stepping-stone for creating visibility of Asian Americans on TV. The show tackles various stereotypes such as the tiger mom and the model minority, which then opens the door for conversation in regards to the perception of Asian Americans.

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As much as it is important to note that Fresh off the Boat is creating visibility for Asian Americans, it is important to note that the content is shaped by the political economy. The show has received some backlash because of its blatant use of stereotypes. But one must take into consideration the challenges the network face balancing cultural perspective and mass-market appeal especially for the genre it falls into, which is a comedy. ABC is a mainstream network that needs to appeal to a boarder audience and the aim of the show is not to represent every Asian American reality, but instead to draw attention to different aspect of an Asian American life that is universal to some degree. The show needs to be universal enough to avoid alienating non-Asian Americans and they do this by the use of humor. As a non-Asian American I am able to enjoy the show mostly because they use humor to highlight the stereotypes associate with Asian Americans. I also think the only way to combat and confront these stereotypes is to address them directly especially in a humorous way so that it comes across non-threatening, while bringing awareness to Asian Americans.

By having the characters portray stereotypical behaviors associated with Asian Americans it combats the hegemonic ideologies. This can be seen in episode 8, when we are introduced to Phillip Goldstein the only other Asian American at the school Eddie attends, and coincidentally the perfect image of the model minority. By episode 8 we have associated Jessica (the mother) as the typically tiger mother who priorities academics and musical accomplishment over typical fun teenagers activities. But in this episode she surprises us the audience and becomes infinity by doing the unexpected. Phillip left Eddie at the concert they went to, because he didn’t want to go to the Beastie concert Eddie wanted to go to. When Jessica found out she stood up for Eddie and even went to the Beastie concert with him. This disrupts the image we have of the tiger mom. Even though Jessica values education and musical accomplishment, she isn’t completely withdrawn from her son’s reality and unwilling to let him be a teenager. Instead of the harshness that is associated with a tiger mom it showed that she could also be supportive, which is important to see because one would only thing that an Asian American Mom can only be one dimensional. Some aspects of the show obviously exaggerate the Asian American experience, but through the discussion in class I gathered that there is some authenticity in the representation of family and school life. All the episodes tackle issues associate with stereotypes that make their exposure a teaching moment for viewers.giphy

Fresh off the Boat is definitely successful in bringing visibility to Asian Americans. It is also successful as a sitcom because it is  relatable which is important to increase viewership. I think it was smart of them to address the issues of stereotypes surrounding Asian Americans instead of leaving them unaddressed because now the audience is better informed and is able to take away something from each episode. Even if each episode doesn’t come across as a learning lesson for non-Asian Americans the show is hilarious and hopefully this is just the beginning for more main lead roles for Asian Americans.

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