Fresh off the Boat, a comedy based loosely on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memoirs has just premiered on ABC and I laughed my ass off because on so many levels I recognized the parenting style that is uniquely Asian.
I laughed knowingly when Eddie’s mum, Jessica Huang (played by Constance Wu) wanted Eddie to take extra after school classes, because as soon as I stepped into first grade right until I graduated high school, I took extra study classes after school. Any after school activity was only ok as long as they didn’t interfere with my ‘studies’. On the weekends I took piano classes, ballet and art classes. And of course, I spoke three languages before even entering school.
While not every aspect of Fresh off the Boat is similar to my childhood (especially since I didn’t grow up in the United States), there was comfort in seeing other Asians on television. And I mean, Asians fresh off the boat. The ones with the mentality and mannerisms of people I am familiar with.
It’s funny to see how the Huang family never says ‘I love you’; instead love is shown. I recognize the worry in Jessica Huang when in frustration she feels she’s the only one worrying that the business isn’t making money. How everything is too expensive. How my own mum preferred the ‘dirty’ market to a clean, clear supermarket – just like Eddie’s mum in the show.
It felt comfortable. And while to me the story was normal and ‘Asian’, I can see how people think it might be exaggerated. I mean, obviously there are bits that are exaggerated; it is a sitcom after all. But it is grounded in truth. I feel that this seems so ‘out there’ because the Asian culture has only been seen in America as the butt of some joke or the other. So when it is seen up close and for the length of a full sitcom, it seems like it is an exaggeration.
Well, I for one am excited for the world to see one part of Asian culture (Asia is big yo!), and yet many East, South East and South Asians can recognize in some way. Tune in to catch Fresh off the Boat on ABC.