The decade’s first Asian-American sitcom is here and its host network ABC is “subliminally racist”, according to some web users.
Fresh Off the Boat, the New York Times best-selling memoir which inspired the sitcom, was written by celebrity chef Eddie Huang about his experiences growing up in the US as a Taiwanese-Chinese American in the 90s (he also had a Vice series under the same title, which we’ve covered in the past). Huang is a producer for the show and is adamant about maintaining the name “Fresh Off the Boat”, despite criticism that the show will help normalize the term, and that it’ll be used by non-Asians unaware of its original, oppressive meaning.
“I would never call myself an American. I’m a Taiwanese-Chinese-American. My parents came here in the late ’70s and had me about three years after they’d lived in this country. So I consider myself fresh. You can’t tell me to not consider myself something,” Huang said in an interview with BuzzFeed.
In a recent interview with TIME, Huang further defended his decision and explains why he will neither apologize nor change the title:
“The book is very much about how growing up in America, you’re almost shamed into assimilation, and I chose the name Fresh off the Boat because as I got older, I really, really started to own who I was, where I was from. I had that duality of growing up in a very traditional Taiwanese-Chinese home, and then the outside American kind of wilderness and the older I got, the more I wanted to be fresh off the boat.
If dominant culture is going to misunderstand it and use it or whatever, I can’t control that. But I know that my intention is very honest, it has integrity and it means a lot to me to reclaim the word. My mom was only in America, I think three years, when she had me. I grew up with people who just got here and that experience is very special to me. And it’s also an experience that dominant culture tried to kind of shame me for.”
ABC picked up “Fresh Off the Boat” along with “Black-ish” for its racially diverse 2014-2015 line-up, in a move they feel will help ABC reflect “the new face of America”. The pilot episode was released to media last Wednesday and received a largely positive response.
Criticisms towards Huang were mainly made on Twitter, but generally the online chatter revolving around the show is positive, with only a minority seemingly upset with the choice of title.
A few gems lurk amongst mixed comments for the pilot’s YouTube trailer (watch below) as well.
Watch Huang defend the title, along with the use of the word “chink” in the show in his video interview at Time.
Watch the trailer here:
By Giulia Sciota
[Video via YouTube]