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UPDATED: August 7, 2015 NO.12 MARCH 19, 2015
Fresh on the Screen
American comedy Fresh Off the Boat tells a relatable Asian immigrant story that rings true
By Kylee McIntyre

Target audience

I also talked to other fans of the show who could relate to its themes.

"It's about an all-Asian [Chinese] family living in America in the 90s. Like, that's literally a show about my life," said Chi, who is Vietnamese American. "The music and the clothing and everything just set me back to my childhood. I'm actually a huge fan of 90s hip-hop, so it's good to hear that it's making a comeback via this show."

I asked her what her favorite part of the show was, and she immediately brought up the show's fourth episode, titled Success Perm, in which Jessica's sister Connie and her husband come to visit the Huangs after their move from DC. Hilarity ensues when each family tries to prove they're the more successful clan, and in the process, Louis and Jessica both get perms.

"They do 'Asian' things," said Chi. "[Perms] are a sign of you doing well in your life, and to me, that was just so hilarious. That's a thing that Asians don't really talk about, but I know that they are 100-percent factual statements."

She also pinpointed an episode in which Huang explains why his family never tells each other they love each other. They'd rather show it rather than tell each other about it.

"[In my experience], that's pretty true as well. Asian American families never publicly display their love for one another, so when you see your parents holding hands, that's actually really intimate. Saying 'I love you' is just unheard of unless you want something," said Chi.

Coincidentally, in the episode Chi references, Eddie realizes something strange is happening with his father's restaurant because his father uncharacteristically says "love you!"

Thomas, who, like Eddie, grew up American to two immigrant parents from Taiwan, started watching the show because he wanted to see how accurately the show told its story. He was impressed with the results.

"I think literally each of the five episodes I watched [so far] had me in at least one 'war flashback' moment," said Thomas, "where literally whatever was unfolding on the screen I could relate to a personal experience of my own."

He, too, cites the Success Perm episode as one of his favorites.

"The second I saw the titular success perm, I just about lost it. I had to pause the episode to breathe from the laughter. [My friends] were both very confused, so I grabbed a family portrait from the living room to show them my mom's own 'success perm,'" he said.

Thomas has frequent watch parties for Fresh Off the Boat with his friends, neither of whom are Asian-American. The show helps them learn about his family, the immigrant experience, and, according to Thomas, it's just entertaining.

Sam, one of those friends, also really enjoys the show for the writing and its characters. He names Jessica as his favorite character and admires her self-love and self-respect. Originally, though, he started watching the show for the diversity of its cast.

"I love the fact that the writers are able to avoid the trap of making the show all about diversity and the Huang family's ethnicity. I think when you have a show that's heralded as an important milestone in representation, it's hard not to give into the pressure of representing every single member of the people you're representing. I think where the show succeeds most is in their being able to avoid making a hollow, preachy show, and instead making a well-written show that shows an honest portrayal of life in an ethnic minority," said Sam.

As for what they expect to see in the future, the response is unanimous: more. More Asian American shows on television and more episodes of Fresh Off the Boat.

"I need to see where they're going to take the show," Thomas said. "What else are they going to make a jab at? How is the family going to survive? These are things I need to know!"

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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