Fresh off the Boat is a comedy that first aired in February of 2015 on ABC. It is currently in its first year of production and follows the story of Eddie Huang’s Taiwanese family that moves from Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida in 1995. The series was inspired by Eddie Huang and is based off his book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir.
Much of the show deals with the family’s transition into suburban Orlando life where there are few Asians. The show follows Eddie and his family member’s struggles into assimilating into Florida life. Eddie and his family each transition into their new lives differently, with some struggling more than others. The family has multiple conflicts with hegemonic Americans in school, at work, and around the neighborhood. For example, Eddie tries to conform to the hegemonic American views by trying to bring lunchables to school after being teased about his Asian noodles. Since his mom is seen as an outsider in the neighborhood due to her race, she tries to fit in with white moms in the neighborhood by joining the rollerblading crew. She also tries to achieve the look upward economic and social mobility by getting a perm to show off to her sister when she visits.
The show can be seen as a cultural production with ties to grassroots culture and mass culture. On the grassroots level, it involves a predominantly Asian cast, which is extremely rare in mainstream American television. Most of the cast is composed of relatively unknown actors who are able to make themselves known from the show. Fresh off the Boat, however, can be considered a mass culture because it is produced by ABC, one the top television production companies in the country.
Much of the content of the show is shaped by the political economy. The show is produced by ABC and the show is aimed to be a comedy with viewers receiving comical pleasure from watching the show. As a result, with its involvement with American television, the show loses its Asian authenticity. For example, in the show, Eddie’s parents have fictitious Asian accents in order to appear more Asian and to make it more seem like that they do not fit into suburban Florida. Instead of focusing on trying to be authentic, American television shows are merely concerned about the viewers of the show. The number of viewers determines a television show’s success and determines its continuity with numerous seasons. As a result, a show’s success based on viewers enables the show to continue and also allows the cast and crew to keep their jobs.
The loss of Asian authenticity in American television has become an issue. While the show was supposed to be based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir, the show’s producers have instead shifted into a different light, which ultimately resulted in Eddie Huang cutting all ties from the show. Mainstream television’s goal to gain viewers has affected our ability to reveal our Asian American-ness. Most viewers do not care about the loss of authenticity and only care about how pleasurable or entertaining the show is. The question becomes whether Asian American actors should use fake accents and be forced to speak the native tongue of a language they are not familiar with. In a sense, this makes the show become less authentic because they are using fake accents to appear more Asian. The actors are also speaking in languages they unfamiliar with and may have an accent when speaking a certain language. The other side of the argument is whether this loss of authenticity is acceptable and Asian Americans should be satisfied with the increasing existence of Asian roles in mainstream television. In the article below, Constance Wu, who plays Eddie’s mother, says “Not only am I okay with doing an accent, I actually think, as an actor, character work is one of the most fun parts.” This lengthens the argument as to are using fake accents okay as long as the actor is comfortable with and is justified in using them.