Friday, May 16, 2014

My Ultimate Wish for Us - Thoughts on "Fresh Off the Boat"

A dear friend messaged me with this trailer for ABC's new pilot Fresh Off the Boat at 6:53am, a testament to his enthusiasm for the project and for my people.

Today's Moral:  Be careful when messaging Eliza.  She can get *very* wordy.  Reply is below.

Dear Friend:

This is going to be a lengthy response because it's a topic I've been thinking quite a bit about lately.  My different personas have distinct responses to Fresh Off the Boat.

First, as an Asian-American actor, I love it.  It looks smart and funny, and it's a perfect way to get Asian experiences mainstreamed.  I hope it survives for a few seasons, and I appreciate the strides we are making.

On a personal level, it hurts to watch the trailer.  My own experience was so blisteringly and unrelentingly painful that watching "Asians having fun" increases my feelings of alienation.  How will it feel to be a suicidal Asian-American teenager seeing a pretend Asian family cracks mainstream jokes on network TV?  A part of me balks at the idea of America seeing a bunch of quick-witted jokey Asians.  I fear that our deeper underlying issues will be dismissed even more.  The rate of untreated mental health disorders and domestic violence in minority cultures is so high, and this is due to shame and silence.  Will the TV empower us or shame us more?

I do, however, concede that we may actually be increasing our odds of finding help by bringing our culture into the mainstream conscience.  But the skeptical side of me looks other minorities and wonders if that's just another TV pipe dream.  

Personally, I champion the writing that brings our ghosts out of the closet, the writing that pinpoints and damns the deeper cultural behaviors that poison my people.  Jokes about food and mistranslation and the Old Country feel shallow sometimes.  But perhaps laughter can mitigate the harder times.  Perhaps levity can ironically help us change the terrible ways we treat each other which arise out of the simple and base fears of being an immigrant.

In the meantime, I will support any ethnic voice which emerges into mainstream media.  At this point, any ethnic writing takes bravery.  The world gets better by one step at a time, even if that step is slightly different from mine.  

I just challenge those of who know better.  Let's go beyond the gimmicky, food-centered and obvious topics into the hearts - dirty, tired and damaged though they may be - of our people.  The cliche holds here: the Truth - if we have the courage to write it - will set us free.

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