ABC: Setting Exemplary Standards for Minority Representation

The small sphere within the film and entertainment industry that is occupied by Asian and Asian American actors is indicative of the underwhelming representation of that minority group. This past award season, many reporters and viewers were shocked at the lack of minorities given prestigious roles. For example, the Oscars were heavily scrutinized for their history of minority exclusion with five black actors and actresses winning a leading role award since 1929, one Hispanic winner, and two Asian winners. While the two “Asian” winners in the history of the award show, Yul Brynner and Ben Kingsley, have ancestry that can be traced back to Asian countries, they do not phenotypically represent the majority of Asian and Asian American actors in the industry. The statistics, unfortunately, seem to mimic the trajectory of actors of color trying to pursue prestigious roles. A new show on ABC called “Fresh Off the Boat,” while receiving mixed reviews from different critics, is bringing a refreshing change to the network lineup that is missing a number of minority groups. With the inclusion of a show like “Fresh off the Boat,” ABC continues to set an example as an “exemplary program” as reported by the Asian American Justice Center.

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As a regular on Grey’s Anatomy, Sandra Oh became a household name for many Americans especially after being awarded the Golden Globe as “Best Supporting Actress” in 2005. Her character had distinction and a plotline that was essential to the fabric of the show, which set her apart from many other Asian and Asian American actors who were stuck in tokenizing roles. “Fresh off the Boat” shows a family with members that possess depth and more character traits than most Asian and Asian American characters on television. Despite the show’s exaggerated use of racial stereotypes, the characters continue to develop throughout the first season and their spirits shine through the mask of satire and stereotypical comedy. Each character has identifiable attributes, such as Louis’ overwhelming positivity despite drawbacks to his restaurant. Unlike the series “All American Girls,” this show highlights the family as a whole, where as Margaret Cho’s character was the epicenter of the show, which revolved around her doings.

When identifying notions of sexuality within the Asian and Asian American community on television, the Asian American Justice Center found that “with the exception of the married couple “Jin-Soo” and “Sun” from ABC’s Lost, all other APIA regulars are involved in relationships with non-APIAs.” While these representations of Asian and Asian American romance and sexuality may promote the idea of diversity, many networks seem to shy away from monolithic relationships possibly as a means to promote the notion of assimilation amongst the Asian and Asian American community. “Fresh off the Boat” tackles issues of assimilation that hit home for many immigrant families in the United States. Despite television networks’ visible representation of a perfectly assimilated Asian American character, who is involved with someone with a different race, bodies deemed “Asian” are still seen as foreign despite their legal status in the country or generation number. “Fresh off the Boat” capitalizes on the perspective that is rarely seen in the world of mass media, once again marking ABC as an exemplary program.

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