English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

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Fresh off the Meaning of TV

For my final post, I figured I’d review what I thought the show was trying to tell us overall. I began my blog talking about the themes of the show, and progressed to talk about the role of gender in the show. Because I did these heavy- hitting topics towards the beginning of my blog, I feel that it could be useful to revisit now that I’ve seen more and been able to have a clearer idea of how these review topics have influenced the overall meaning of the show.

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look back at it

The show revolved around central abstracts like feminism, gender roles, family dynamics, and immigration.  The show was first aired in primetime in the slot directly following Modern Family, a telling fact which I missed in earlier reviews. This shows the audience that they were targeting as set up by the viewers of Modern Family and can indicate the style the show follows. Both shows are a little sarcastic, comedic, family-friendly sitcoms with adult twists here and there to keep it interesting for the adult viewers. They are overall family friendly but make a point to revolve around key social issues like homosexual marriage, mixed families, immigration, women’s roles, and more. This pattern holds their target audience and is extended through the show’s presence on the online streaming network Hulu. The show wants to have its audience but make its point too.

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yes, you can be both fully Asian and fully American

Fresh off the Boat normalizes and brings down to earth characters which challenge the norm. The main female lead is very much in control of her family and leads her husband in many ways, being a strong-willed yet feminine and sweet character. The father is an Asian-American immigrant who is pursuing the American Dream. These characters border on satirizing the norms of American culture and bring to light the ‘melting pot’ aspect of American culture in a positive and endearing way. This results in not only a huge following but also a meaningful one which reflects that these ideas will have an effect on mainstream culture with its audience.

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Flight Attendant to Astronaut

A parent’s biggest worry is perhaps the future of his/her children. In Season 2, Episode 14 of Fresh Off the Boat, Michael Chang Fever, Emery and Evan came home with their results for prospective careers based on their personalities. Much to Jessica’s surprise, while Evan scored surgeon general, Emery was suggested to become a flight attendant. Jessica explains to Emery that flight attendants are essentially the “homeless of the sky” and encouraged him to learn tennis after hearing that professional tennis players can earn up to 15 million dollars. Emery demonstrated natural talents and quickly rose through the rankings of a tennis tournament; however, he ended up firing his parents as his coach and began training with Billie Jean King. Jessica and Louis understood that their son only made this choice to become a better tennis player, and supported Emery’s decision. After winning the tournament, Emery explained to Jessica and Louis he didn’t want to devote his life to tennis at the moment and wishes to stop playing the sport. The only thing the parents said was: “whatever you want to do, we support you.”

 

This episode revolves around the main question of who should decide the child’s future. Should parents encourage their kids to follow their heart or guide them in directions that the parents believe are good? Jessica refused to let Emery follow the path of becoming a flight attendant, but she realized that Emery’s opinion is very important in making this decision as it is Emery’s life and Emery’s future. In the end, the Huangs decided to embrace their child’s choice, but guide Emery in a slightly different direction: becoming an astronaut. Making a compromise is perhaps the best outcome of the situation, Jessica wants the best for Emery while allowing him to do what he wants with his life.

Emery with his new tennis coach

This episode focuses on a very simple and prevalent issue with parenting and shows how the Huang family guided Emery in career choices. The comedic elements played very well alongside the main story, consistent with the show’s way of portraying the family and the obstacles they overcome.

Eddie Huang’s take on his memoir turned sit-com ‘Fresh Off the Boat’

Fresh Off the Boat is the first Asian American sit-com, to air on American prime-time television, in 20 years; it is based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir “Fresh Off the Boat.” Despite this Eddie Huang is quite the critic of the show saying, “I’m happy people of color are able to see a reflection of themselves through #FreshOffTheBoat on @ABCNetwork but I don’t recognize it.” and “I had to say something because I stood by the pilot. After that it got so far from the truth that I don’t recognize my own life.” Eddie has criticized the show for taking the easy route and twisting his story into something unrecognizable. “This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won’t take that gamble right now.” Fresh Off the Boat was meant to be a truly Asian-American story based on Eddie’s story; instead the route the producers decided to take completely diverge from that of Eddie’s story. Many Asian-American are still able to connect to the sit-com, but not in the way that Eddie had hope they would.

Over time Eddie has come to accept the sit-com as a gateway to more shows starring Asian-Americans. “”I don’t watch it, but I’m proud of what it does.” While Fresh Off the Boat diverge from his memoir, Eddie still understands the importance of having a TV show with Asian-Americans as its main cast. He has many acknowledgements to the fact that now with Fresh Off the Boat success that it has proven that diverse stories about Asian-Americans can be successful which could lead to better shows for the Asian minority in the future. “But for all the bullshit I heard at studios about universal stories and the cultural pus it perpetuates, I felt some truth in it.… It takes a lot of chutzpah to launch a network comedy with a pilot addressing the word “chink”, yet it works because it’s the safest bet the studio could have made.” 

While over time Eddie Huang has seen the benefit of having an Asian-American show on prime-time, it is still hard to see something he’s written turned into something that he is unable to recognize.

Eddie Huang Critics Fresh Off the Boat for diverging from the source.

Eddie Huang in real life is a clothing designer, restaurateur, TV host and author.

Gender and other stereotypes on “Fresh Off the Boat”

Fresh Off the Boat gets better with stereotypes and gender representations as the series continues. However like many other shows, it doesn’t deal well with tropes, stereotypes, and genders during the first season. Starting the series off, there are 2 main male characters, Eddie and Louis, and 1 main female character, Jessica, along with two other boys, Emery and Evans, and grandma Huang. Jessica is a stereotype Tiger Mom pushing her children to perform well in academics. Jessica is a typical housewife staying home taking care of the kids and house chores. Louis is a typical male breadwinner of the household working each day and being away from home. In season 1 episode 9 “License to Sell,” Jessica becomes a realtor, selling houses, however, she still isn’t able to break away from being a housewife. Even though she has a career, Jessica only really sells house when her kids are at school despite how successful she is. Fresh Off the Boat does present us with the fact that Jessica is truly the head of the household, instead of Louis, as she is seen commanding everyone around.

Near the end of season 1 episode 3, we are introduced to Nicole who is the beautiful girl on the block that Eddie instantly falls in love with. In this episode, we are shown how Eddie considers women more like objects of attraction. First, Eddie wants to use Honey to show off to his classmates in order to get friends; then we see Eddie fall in Nicole simply because of her beauty. Both also dress in slightly revealing outfits. Then later we meet Connie who is Jessica’s sister, Connie then tells us how she got fake breast implants. Also when we meet the neighborhood women in the “Pilot,” they are all in a group skating around the neighborhood; it was quite obvious that all the women were housewives and whenever we see them it’s with Jessica not allowing us to see their daily lives.

In Fresh Off the Boat, nearly everyone is straight with the exception being Nicole; however, we don’t learn about this until a later season. The most notable episode, about this, in the first season is episode ten “Blind Spot.” This is where we learn of Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Oscar, who is gay. The problem with the shows portrayal of Oscar is that they seem to of use every gay stereotype in the book. Oscar first is given a short of accent, then we learn that he is auditioning for the Aladdin Ice Show Spectacular. Later when Oscar gets out of the shower, he is wearing a pink robe and a “gaysian” necklace.

One inclusion that is notable is including Grandma Huang backstory of foot-binding that shows us what women had to deal with in old China.

Jessica being rightfully prideful about being able to sell a house that no one has been able to sell before.

Eddie tosses coupons at Honey as if he’s in a gentleman’s club

Jessica Huang, the star of the show

The show is based off Eddie Huang’s memoir: Fresh off the Boat, and focuses around Eddie’s family life in Orlando. Most of the characters in the family are male, along with Jessica, grandma, and Connie; nonetheless, Jessica plays one of the biggest roles in the show and is one of the main female focuses. This blog post will focus on how Jessica is represented on the show and how she is compared to the other female characters.

 

Gender roles were relatively static and there wasn’t too much gender spread across the show, Jessica was first portrayed as a housewife who depended on Louis to earn money and support the family. However, she soon because a realtor and began her own career. Jessica was able to utilize her negotiation skills to become a successful realtor and broke away from the housewife role she was originally put in.

 

Throughout the show, we saw that Jessica was at the center of the family and sets the rules of the house. Yet at times we saw that even Jessica needed a vacation and support from the other family members. Many of the episodes were focused on Jessica’s struggles, fears, and conflicts and how the family was always by her side to help her through tough times. Fresh Off the Boat portrayed Jessica as a powerful woman, challenging the stereotype of a stay-home housewife.

 

Compared to Jessica, the other moms in the neighborhood seem to be underrepresented. The roller-skating moms were mostly shown in gossip scenes and Honey is portrayed as a trophy wife, with their husbands being country club members. The difference in female representation is mostly due to the focus of the show; as it is based on Eddie’s memoir, the main focus is on the Huang family, rather than the neighbors.

 

Jessica is very well respected by everyone in the show as well as the audience, her strong and independent personality allows her to be the center of the family while she also shows her weaknesses. This particular representation drastically changed the show dynamic and made each episode much more interesting to watch. 

Jessica’s parenting style

Women Off the Boat, in New Places of Power

Throughout the first season of Fresh Off the Boat, gender roles remained very static and I’d go as far as saying they were very stereotypical. None of the characters really break any molds; most everyone is a typical character and there aren’t any radical characterizations regarding gender. One may argue that Jessica’s place of power in the Huang family challenges the typical patriarchal scheme of a family that we see emphasized through the rest of the neighborhood moms. While this is certainly the case, she is still very dependent on Louis to make all of the money and she fits into the whole “tiger mom” stereotype. I guess all of this is passable since the series is loosely based on Eddie Huang’s book, so this may very well have been how these people existed and interacted.

Towards the end of the first season and certainly in the second, there is some shifting of power regarding gender. Jessica gets a job and is able to provide for the family and move her character away from its previous positioning as a strong matriarch that is only concerned with the performance of her kids. In season 2, episode 3, she also demonstrates her ability to negotiate with salespeople and scores her family a new car for significantly less than its sticker price. As such, she definitely has a big effect on the plot of the show and begins to break away from the more typical role she previously occupied.

Additionally, Nicole, Eddie’s neighbor, is expanded from just being Eddie’s crush to also being a strong, plot-driving character. In episode 5, she demonstrates a lot of power over the boys in school by scaring them away from Jessica’s real estate property. This is definitely a shift towards a more progressive role than she previously held as more of just a pretty face.

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Nicole scares off some boys.

This is probably the lone example of something in the show shifting into focus without becoming the butt of a joke, as with sexual orientation. The show brings this up a lot, but it’s never really explored. It’s always used to convey a joke, which I hope will change in the way we’ve seen the show’s representation of gender evolve. In addition, the rest of the female characters occupy very stereotypical roles, as stay-at-home neighborhood moms and a trophy wife. The same can be said for the men, who are mostly rich country club members. At least each gender is accounted for in near equal numbers. I guess the directors just take a lot of time to push the plot in new directions and are slow to approach new facets of representation.

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The Denim Turtle, Jessica’s escape. Also happens to be a lesbian hang-out.

Fresh Off the Gender Stereotypes

So far in season one of Fresh Off the Boat, the genders have been fairly traditionally represented. The main characters are a nuclear family with young boys. In some aspects, I suppose the show could be somewhat progressive for the way in which the mother is represented as being rather equally in control over the family as the father. However, it is also his job that moves the family, he who is the main breadwinner, and she who is at home with the kids. For the purpose of playing devil’s advocate, it is true that she very much has a backbone and that she pushes the children in school and calls her husband on his BS, often times saving his skin at the restaurant, but she is also placed in very traditional roles, almost stereotypical for an Asian mother. This way, the show plays with the transitioning role of women in society and emphasizes the context of the character both in her sex and ethnicity in terms of her role in the family. She represents the progression of the role of women in society as she is not as empowered in her career, yet she owns being a stay at home mother and takes an active role in her husband’s business, indicating that although she is in traditional roles, she still has a backbone.

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the family-friendly “yo mama”

With the issue of gender, this show is much less progressive than it could be. There are only the two traditional genders represented, and even these aren’t represented very progressively. We don’t see any instances of the characters being gender fluid, transgender, cross-dressing, androgeny, or otherwise. All of the female characters are feminine and so far all have been straight. All of the men act and dress as a cis hetero male would. The show’s cultural focus is clear. It is not gender. It is not sexuality. It is about Asian immigrants in America. In a way, I can respect this because the focus is not being distracted from. The narrative is told. However, I also take issue with this because it does not reflect the reality for most Americans. Gender is a spectrum. Sexuality is a spectrum. Fresh Off the Boat isn’t too fresh with the facts.

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that’s the tea

The Real Santa?

The theme of a TV show determines the central focus of the story, it is able to connect the characters and the plots to demonstrate the message from the director. In The Real Santa (Episode 10, Season 2) of Fresh Off the Boat, the story focuses on the Huang family celebrating Christmas. There are two subplots in the episode: Jessica and Louis trying to convince Evan of who Santa really is and Emery and Eddie trying to find the perfect present for their mother.

 

One of the main question posed in this episode is: “Who is Santa Claus?” Jessica believed that Santa needs to be “improved” and tries to instill values upon Evan by trying to create a Santa Claus who is a scientist that graduated from Princeton. When the plan for Marvin to act as Santa backfired, Jessica told Evan that Santa is actually Chinese! At this part of the story, the question of “Why Can’t Santa be Chinese?” is raised. Instead of forcing everyone to believe the white and chubby Santa Claus and sticking to the norm, Jessica’s version of an intelligent Chinese lady as Santa offers a look on diversity as a part of Christmas culture. In the end, Jessica successfully convinced Evan of her version of Christmas, and Eddie and Emery were both able to find amazing presents for their mother.

 

Jessica as Santa Claus

 

This particular episode relates to the show overall as the Huang family finds balance between their traditional Chinese values and the American culture. Throughout the show, the Huang family sees the differences between the two cultures but are able to find the pros and cons of both and adjust appropriately to the new environment. In this episode specifically, Emery and Eddie were able to learn what “good presents” really are, and Jessica was able to create a different concept of Santa Claus. It was an interesting episode as it wasn’t the usual gift and Santa Christmas episode and offers a cultural twist on the idea of the holiday.

It’s a Male, Male World

Jessica Huang is NOT taking anyone’s garbage today

Although ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat extensively explores racial relations through the eyes of a young Chinese boy growing up in America, its gender diversity is limited.  Perhaps this is because the show is primarily centered around Eddie Huang’s life.  He is close to his father, he has two brothers, and his best friends are boys.  So far, the only times we really see women as major characters in this show are Eddie’s mother, his grandmother, and his MUCH older “love interests” (with whom he has no chance… sorry, Eddie).

There is no doubt that Fresh Off the Boat most prominently features men.  This does not seem to be an anti-women stance; the show is based on Eddie Huang’s childhood, and I think he realistically spent more time with other boys.  At school, Eddie primarily hangs out with other boys.  At home, he sees and spends time with his younger brothers.  When he talks to someone about any struggles or hardships, it is typically his father.

Despite males being far more represented than females, Fresh Off the Boat still features plenty of women.  Perhaps the strongest female characters in the show are Jessica (Eddie’s mother) and Grandma Jenny (Eddie’s grandmother, who lives with the Huangs).  Jessica is afraid of no man, and she certainly isn’t afraid to insert her opinion over her husband’s.  Eddie thinks of his mother as the epitome of a Chinese-American woman: she is bold in the family’s entrepreneurial business, she considers herself equal to her husband, and she considers her children’s education of the utmost importance (to the point that she supplements their schooling with home classes).  Although at first, Jessica struggles to assimilate with the other women in the neighborhood, she realizes her family means more to her than her social life, and that others’ opinions are not as important as they seem.

Overall, Fresh Off the Boat is not an exceptionally diverse show in terms of gender, but what it lacks in that area, it makes up for in terms of racial and cultural diversity.  It provides thought-provoking insight into the life of a young child of immigrants, and it is absolutely a show worth watching (even if almost everyone IS a man).

Fitting In

One of the biggest themes of this show is about the family fitting in in their new community in Florida after moving from Washington, DC. Every family member has their own issue(s) with their new environment, except Evan of course. Evan fit in just fine and even has a girlfriend when he’s like 10 years old. Eddie, the main character, goes to many lengths to fit in at his school. This is really interesting because it is relatable for so many kids that are a minority. Being the only or one of the only kids in the class of a certain race can definitely be very difficult. From first experience, it’s easy to want to fit in with everyone else, even if it goes against your own values or family traditions. This show does a great job at showing the struggles a minority family without crossing the line with offensive stereotypes. The kids at Eddie’s school think he’s lame because he does not have Jordan shoes, and not going to lie I bought Jordan shoes for the same reason. One lesson of the episode is shown through Eddie’s mother. She’s having trouble finding other women in her neighborhood, Honey, that she gets along with, until one day she meets a neighbor and gets along with her really well. The only problem is that all the other women of the neighborhood hate Honey and this could potentially be bad for the family business. She initially decides to cut the friendship off, but later realizes that she should be true to her real friend, even if she will face adversity in the future for doing so. This scene demonstrates the purpose of staying true to yourself, and the people who care about you. Hopefully Eddie follows the same path as his mom, but that does not seem very likely at the moment.

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Eddie has high expectations lol

The Cinematography of “Fresh Off the Boat”

Unfortunately I don’t have much expertise on cinematography and direction of television production, so I hope to critique to the best of my ability. “Fresh Off the Boat” does well in avoiding the harsh lighting of the sun. It is great at diffusing the sunlight to ensure that everyone is softly lit at all times, so that us, viewers, can always have a good view of the characters’ features and attire. However, the constant soft lighting does make it seem unrealistic as it makes the entire production seem to either constantly be morning or evening. “Fresh Off the Boat” has a lot of moving shots keeping the select character in view making it easy for audiences to follow along with the show. However, the show does seem to have a slightly shaky camera sometimes; that I’m unsure if it’s intentional or not. It does seem to make it perhaps slightly more realistic, if intentional; however, if unintentional, it would make the production seem slightly less professional. Conversions are framed with the speaking character in focus to allow audiences to keep their eye on the target character as well as switching to the listening character for reactions allowing the audience to feel as if they understand each character at every moment. When there are two characters in the same shot that both have lines, the camera focuses in on the character that is currently talking; this allows the viewer to unconsciously change focus to the current subject. The show ensures that audience don’t get caught up with backgrounds by using mostly beige, soft browns, and low intensity yellows. I do admire the close-up of character faces, especially during reaction shots, as it allows the audience to see and understand the emotion of the characters. Each shot is fairly short often changing frames every few seconds; this is likely due to the short attention spans of current audiences that expect to be entertained at every second. These quick back and forth changes are a bit much for me, but it’s what many audiences expect of new shows and films. Something specific that’s done nice are Jessica’s flashbacks which are dulled out to represent the contradiction between her words and her memories. In the first episode, Jessica has a flashback to her time at the Taiwanese markets back in DC; her describes the memory lovingly, but when we’re shown the memory, it’s appears to be rather overwhelming with Jessica screaming and pushing.

In this shot, the camera is focus on Jessica with Eddie’s face slightly in focus so that we can see his reactions. The lighting outside seems to say it’s at least late morning, yet inside the car lighting is still soft.

 

A Little Too Lighthearted

Episode five of Fresh Off the Boat is written by Sanjay Shah, who has written six other episodes of Fresh Off the Boat and five episodes of King of the Hill. Like all other episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, this episode features a voiceover, which is Eddie Huang’s thoughts as he remembers the events taking place. He clears up his thoughts at important times and gives some extra information we might not know as we progress through the show.

The writing of this episode is very similar in structure to that of the other episodes. A main story arc is introduced and concluded within the same episode, with smaller conflicts along the way. Also like the rest of the series, the humor in the episode is very persistent. I definitely enjoy this facet of the writing. It keeps me engaged and gives the show a very lighthearted and fun tone.

Sometimes the show’s focus on being comedic gets in the way, though, of which this episode is a very good example. The episode’s major conflict involves sexual harassment, and by extension sexuality. Louis is forced to give Eddie “the talk” after a sexual harassment video makes its way through Eddie’s school. This talk is shown in one scene in which Louis mentions that one of the reasons he came to America was so that Eddie could have a more liberal experience with sex than he could in Taiwan. But that’s about as far as it goes. Following that, the scene is composed of a bunch of jump cuts to other parts of Louis’s talk, all of which are comical in nature. Eddie’s voiceover in this scene expresses his gratitude that his father didn’t use the corny school-issued book to teach him about sex, which is something of a viewpoint that the writers may be expressing. However, I don’t think this can be read into very far, since the talk Louis gave was once again the punchline to a joke.

Louis gives Eddie “the talk”

This is a problem for me- the show brings up an important topic and begins to dive into it, but then cuts itself off and doesn’t really bring the discussion anywhere. It’s honestly confusing to watch, since I can’t tell what’s supposed to be a statement and what’s a joke. It leaves me unsatisfied- the show opens up a lot of very good opportunities for the writers to use their medium to convey a message about something important! But instead, they opt to keep the tone very lighthearted and cover things up with more jokes. This tendency is observable in other episodes, too. I understand the want to keep the tone of the show light and comical, but it still leaves things to be desired since the show by nature has a lot of important issues it can address.

Fresh Off the…Caddyshack?

Entitled “Showdown at the Golden Saddle,” the seventh episode of season one finds the Huang family pretty well settled into life in Orlando.  Keith Heisler wrote this episode and several other episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, as well as numerous episodes of American Dad! and Guys with Kids.  In addition to writing for these shows, Heisler has also produced multiple episodes for each show.  (see: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1510546/)

“Showdown at the Golden Saddle” is written very similarly to most episodes of Season One: Jessica and Louis argue/make up/bond, Eddie desperately tries to get a pretty girl to notice him, and Emery and Evan are perfect angels.

Since I knew I would be focusing on the show’s writing as I watched this episode, I paid extra close attention to dialogue, music, and references made by characters.  As with all other episodes, “Showdown at the Golden Saddle” is narrated by the real-life Eddie Huang, so it’s as if grown-up Eddie is reminiscing on his childhood.  This perspective shows viewers that our narrator knows exactly how everything will turn out because he lived it.

Intercharacter dialogue doesn’t make up all the noise in the show—we hear lots of exclamations and comments that characters make to only themselves.  However, we don’t get much silence in Fresh Off the Boat.  While there are frequent periods in which nobody speaks, these gaps are typically filled by rap songs, R&B songs, or background chatter.  This constant noise creates a stimulating, fast-paced effect, and I believe this intentionally symbolizes the tone of Eddie Huang’s childhood.

Generally, Fresh Off the Boat characters drop plenty of pop culture references: Eddie’s friends talk about the latest coveted video game, Jessica is obsessed with Stephen King movies, and of course, Eddie frequently shares his latest obsession in the rap music world.  However, in this episode, I found my favorite reference ever: Caddyshack.  When Jessica learned that Louis’s success at Cattleman’s Ranch landed the two of them a spot at a party at the local country club, she expects the place to run exactly as Bushwood Country Club did.  Even though she embarrasses Louis when she quotes the movie at the dinner (“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”), her enthusiasm over visiting a completely new environment is palpable.  I think the show was intentionally written that way, too.  Jessica’s only expectations for a country club came from a highly stereotyped sports comedy, so naturally, her assumptions greatly differed from reality.  When the characters get most of their expectations from movies and TV, their reactions when they actually experience these things is humorous.

Overall, Fresh Off the Boat is written lightheartedly, but below the comedic surface, it depicts childhood the way Eddie Huang remembers it.  Every kid struggles to fit in at some point, but as the child of immigrants, that difficulty is magnified.  With both comedy and not-quite-but-almost-documentary, Fresh Off the Boat’s writers certainly have a full plate, but so far, they’re excelling.

The sole reason Jessica enjoyed Caddyshack, amiright

Cinematography of Family Business Trip

Other than the main plot, cinematography is another essential factor directors use to communicate with the viewers. The way the director has designed the lighting, color themes, and shot choices can drastically change the viewer’s experience and the way the show is perceived. Lighting and color scheme can determine the mood of a particular episode and shot choices can create dramatic effects for action or dialogue. I decided to look how the directors designed the first episode of season two of Fresh off the Boat.

 

The episode begins with a flashback of scenes from the previous season, which is slightly darkened to give the typical “flashback” effect; however, it is not completely black and white like other scenes of flashbacks. It then changes back to the usual calming color theme that was predominant in season one. Since the show focuses on a family in a suburban neighborhood, it doesn’t necessarily have the vibrant colors of a big city but rather the color theme of a middle-class neighborhood in suburban Orlando. The shots vary in length as conversational shots are short and switches from character to character to focus on their facial expressions and responses to the conversation. Other shots could be longer but most of the comedic effects come from the conversations between the characters; therefore, the show has mostly short but well cut shots.

 

I chose the first episode of season two: Family Business Trip as it isn’t shot in the Huang’s house but rather at a resort that they went to. Instead of being mostly filmed in an indoor setting, many scenes of this episode showed the Huang family hanging out at the pool or at Gatorworld. As the scenes were shot in an outdoor setting, they were very well lit and portrays the idea of a family vacation in the hot, sunny summer. The indoor shots’ color theme and lighting remained relatively consistent with other episodes of the show.

Grandma enjoying her new hair at the pool

I think it is very interesting to notice how the show is filmed; I don’t always notice the cinematography behind each episodes but deliberately thinking about these factors made the show much more interesting to watch.

“Fresh Off the Boat” Theme of Cultural Assimilation and Identity

 

A common repeating theme in “Fresh Off the Boat” is the struggle that immigrant families go through when they move to America. The struggle of maintaining their ancestral and individual culture; while at the same time trying to blend in with the American people around them. This comes into the shows forefront during the last episode of the first season of “Fresh Off the Boat.” During the episode, Jessica come to the realization that they had assimilated so far into American culture that their kids were starting to lose perspective of the ancestral culture that they came from. Jessica’s epiphany compounded through several events: Marvin mentioning that they seem like an average American family to him, Evan requesting to know how to say “can you say that in English” in Mandarin, and the fact that she cooked mac and cheese with bacon bits for dinner. In contrast in episode 3 “The Shunning,” Jessica made stinky tofu to take to the block party, a Chinese dish. In fact, what Marvin said was a response to Jessica calling themselves Asian-American with an emphasis on Asian. While it’s the main plot behind episode 13, it has sat in the background for a bit. In an earlier episode, Jessica asked why Eddie couldn’t just a good Chinese boy like Emery or Evan. This is made because Eddie seem to desire to become more like the rest of his classmates; while Emery and Evan were more stereotypical Chinese kids with good grades and Evans even paints some beautiful Chinese inspired art. The most noticeable lost of cultural identify can be seen through the three generations living in the house hold with the grandma being the most tradition and the kids being the most assimilated. In episode 11 “Very Superstitious,” there is a great example of this is the superstitious of the characters. The grandma is seen as being highly religious with incense, Jessica is highly superstitious having typical Chinese superstitions such as the number 4 being bad luck, this is then contrasted with Louis, who has assimilated further into American culture, being only superstitious about not having his jade necklace, and finally the kids aren’t shown to be superstitious, at least not in the traditional Chinese sense, in the episode. This was all use to symbolize how over several generations kids slowly get assimilated into the culture that they live in losing the cultural identity that their parents and grandparents had. This is a very common phenomenon in the real world often happening across three or so generations where the first generation that immigrates to America keeps their own culture passing it down on to their kids that mix it with the culture they live in. Finally, when they have their own kids they past much less of their culture along often with the third generation fully assimilating.

Jessica hopes to hold on to their native language by getting her entire family to only speak in Mandarin when at home.

Eddie wanting to be less Asian and more like his white friends representing the lost of cultural identity over the course of a few generations.

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