Do you know what that means?
Another episode of Fresh Off The Boat on ABC airing at 8/7C.
Will you watch? Have you been watching? What do you think?
Since the pilot of Fresh Off The Boat I’ve felt a bit of a cultural revival. I’ve been consuming all the articles, and the commentary, sometimes with bated breath, often with solidarity and excitement. One of the articles I read last week was an interview in Time magazine, with the actress that plays Jessica Huang, the mother in Fresh Off The Boat, Constance Wu.
The entire article is worth a read. The thoughts and ideas she shares are important to our America, as we work through understanding each other, and how to be respectful of each other, and our cultures.
It has always bothered me when a non-Asian friend, somehow related to an Asian person, or knew an Asian family, automatically assumes that they are now an expert, and know everything about Asian culture. I never knew why it would just make me so uncomfortable. I never spoke up, because I didn’t want to be rude, and I just couldn’t articulate why it bothered me to such a degree. Wu summed it up for me in her interview, “We shouldn’t be a voice for all Asians. We are such a varied group that there’s no one show that can be like. ‘This is what Asian America looks like!’ But we’re given that burden because we’re so rarely represented. If you see Tina Fey on television, you’re not like. ‘All white women are like Tina Fey.’ Yet people are like. ‘Oh. Jessica Huang’s not like my mother, but this show is supposed to be about Asians, so shouldn’t she be like my mother?'”
In other words, Asian people are just as individual, varied, and different as the rest of the world. Knowing one, doesn’t make anyone an expert. I know. You had to sit down for that. Whew! That was a very shocking revelation for me too. (*insert my facetious face*)
Wu also talks about her character Jessica Huang, “I don’t think her foreignness is ever the butt of the joke. She’s aware of her difference, yet she doesn’t think that’s any reason for her to not have a voice. It doesn’t elicit shame in her. She doesn’t become a shrinking violet. And instead of that being something that Asians should be embarrassed of, I think that’s something that we should be proud of – the types of characters who know they don’t speak perfect English, who know they have different customs, who don’t think that that’s any reason for them to not have a voice.”
Frankly, my mother is someone who doesn’t let her difference silence her in public. She has a thick accent, so I’ve been told. I honestly can’t hear the accent my parents have. My mother has never let her immigrant differences keep her from sales jobs, making friends with every farmer that sets up a stall at the local farmer’s market, and she loves to learn Spanish so she can speak with all her friends, and remembers everyone’s children’s names, and ages. She will proselytize for her faith, when others who are natives of this country are too afraid to. When my mother has an opinion, you’ll hear about it. We also joke that when mom prays, God answers.
There’s also a couple videos on the page of that Time article, online, which are interviews with Eddie Huang, the producer of the show, chef, and author of the book, Fresh Off the Boat, which the television show is based on. Huang reminds me of one of my brothers. He is who he is, and defies you if you are offended by it. Huang’s statements in the video really got me thinking, “It’s weird when dominant culture tells you what to be offended by… Just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I can speak about everything in Asian America. I can only speak about things that I know. We need to hold the power to define ourselves. I want us to be viewed as whole people. Not as people who can only do this, or only do that.”
After soaking all this in I thought, America needs to see us. See the myriad of Asian women living in her borders. What is it to be an Asian woman? On a germ of this idea, I decided to get in touch with some of my friends from my school days, and women that I know in real life. I wanted to hear from them, see how they like to describe themselves, and how they see who they are. I was surprised, and thrilled at the response. There’s a need for those of us who never see faces like our own portrayed in mass media, to be seen, heard, and understood. So today, I share with you some of my sisters who are ready to be visible. Personally, I want to gather them all in a room and run around like the Tasmanian Devil hugging them all. If you know me in real life, that’s probably an apt cartoon for me. Good gracious, this cultural period we’re experiencing has been a long time coming.