On Board with Fresh Off the Boat

By Henry Wong

It seems ABC has become the home of shows following the lives of unconventional families with shows like “The Middle” and the award-winning “Modern Family” that have been receiving praise since their debuts in 2009. But in February of this year, a new show was added to this category. “Fresh Off the Boat” is based on the book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by chef Eddie Huang. The show takes place in the 90s and follows a Taiwanese-American family moving from the Washington, D.C. Chinatown to Orlando, Florida. As the father pursues his dream of opening a steakhouse restaurant, the mother deals with culture-clash and the kids try to fit in at school.

The show is now receiving criticism for pushing the limits for poking fun to the point of being racist. A main complaint is the title. The term has a slightly derogatory connotation and was originally used to describe Chinese immigrants literally coming off the boat into America. The boldness of the cast and crew amuses some but bothers others. Viewers were especially startled when one of the characters used the racial  slur “chink” in the pilot episode.

As a Chinese-American myself, I can relate to some of the struggles faced by the characters in the show. The show makes fun of how cheap (some) Asians are and there is an episode where two characters show off how much they saved while bargaining in an attempt to gain their mother’s affection. Another thing I found to be relevant was the Americanization of the sons and the parents’ longing for them to remain in touch with their culture. In the show, the mom sends the kids to CLC (Chinese Learning Center). The kids dread their Chinese homework in addition to their schoolwork as I did when I attended Chinese school when I was younger. I especially identified with the joke made about the last name “Wong” as it is often used interchangeably with the English word “wrong.” I am sad to say that I have heard it more than enough times. Despite all the controversy, the show is heartwarmingly entertaining and I recommend it to all, regardless of your last name.

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