“Fresh Off The Boat” Hits Home for Asian-American Fordham Students


Students at FCLC enjoyed watching “Fresh Off The Boat.” (Maria Kovoros/The Observer)


“Fresh Off The Boat,” a sitcom about a family of Taiwanese immigrants raising their family in the U.S., premiered Feb. 4 and continues to capture the attention of television audiences and critics. This show was seen as a breakthrough for the Asian-American community because it is the first one in contemporary times to feature a predominantly Asian cast. Students at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) who identify themselves as Asian-American have had positive reactions to the program since it began.

“Fresh Off The Boat” revolves around the Huang family; a family in which the parents are Taiwanese immigrants and the children are first-generation Americans. The family moves from Chinatown in Washington, D.C. to a suburban, predominantly white neighborhood in Orlando, Fla. Each individual member of the family has his or her own set of difficulties in terms of adapting to a new set of cultural and social norms.  

According to Jennifer Clark, assistant professor of communications and media studies, the show is interesting because it balances two commitments in network television. “‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is trying to entertain and sell products – it is trying to keep the viewer longer and sustained until she or he will watch the advertisement. [The show] needs to deliver what it imagines an audience would be interested in seeing, without alienating any part of that audience,” she said.  

Secondly, the show is trying to appeal to a greater audience. “We have people here in America who want to see people who have not been represented in television. [Network television shows] have been largely a monolithic, white, middle and working class culture,” Clark said. 

Furthermore, “Fresh Off the Boat” has the burden of being one of the first shows to represent Asian-American culture. “There are so few representations of Taiwanese, Chinese-Americans on television. It bears such a particular weight, because it is the only voice that is being presented,” Clark said. “‘Fresh Off the Boat’ bears a heavy burden because of the unfairness and inequality of television programming. It is scrutinized in a way, that other programming on network television aren’t.” 

According to Randolph Lee, FCLC ’16, Asian-Americans can easily identify themselves with the members of the Huang family.  “I can definitely relate to the show, especially from watching the first or second episode when the other non-Asian kids make fun of the son’s lunch – that happened to me when I started attending a high school that was eight percent Asian,” he said. 

However, there are some students who think otherwise. “I like the show – it’s funny and it’s a good start to Asian-American representation, but there are a lot of other stereotypes in that show; sometimes it seemed more washed out for white viewers to me,” Vice President of the Asian Pacific Alliance Coalition (APAC) Peony Tam, FCLC ’15, said. 

Despite the mixed views of the show, students are glad that Asian-Americans are being more represented in television. Karman Chao, FCLC ’16, said, “I think it’s great that there is finally a show on a popular channel that centers around Asian-Americans.  [The show] dives right into the issues Asian-Americans face in a white-dominant society, such as trying to assimilate into white-American culture and rejecting our own to be socially accepted.”

Chao recognizes that there is a lack of Asian protagonists on American television. “The only time you will see Asian-Americans on TV is when they are a secondary or side actors and they are usually always playing into Asian stereotypes,” she said.  

Evelyn Ng, FCLC ’16, further asserted this view. “It is nice to see people of color being represented in the media. Asian-Americans are underrepresented in primetime TV as there are barely any shows with Asian-American leads, with the exception of Lucy Liu in the show ‘Elementary,’” Ng said. “Other Asian-American actors have a hard time being casted in shows in general and don’t want to be confined to only a ‘nerd’ [role].”