Fresh Off the Boat: Year Of The Rat
February 8, 2016 7:39 AM - Season 2, Episode 11 - Subscribe

The Huangs are getting everything in order to celebrate Chinese New Year with their family in Washington, D.C. But a mix-up with their plane tickets forces them to spend the holiday in Orlando. Scrambling to find other Asians to celebrate with, they stumble upon the Asian-American Association of Orlando, which is hosting their own interpretation of a Chinese New Year celebration.
posted by gemutlichkeit (7 comments total)
I know it's "just a TV show", but were there really "no" Chinese people in Orlando in the 90s? It just sort of beggars belief to me.
posted by briank at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2016

2000 Census has comparison spreadsheets for 1990 and 2000, where we can find that in Orlando in the 1990 Census:
- of 164,693 people, 6.9% (11,436) who were foreign born, of which 16.5% (1,811) were born in Asia (apparently no further break-down)
And in the 2000 Census:
- of 185,984 people, 14.4% (26,741) foreign born, of which 16.9% (4,530) were born in Asia

Before the sophomore show received an order for nine more episodes, rounding out a full season, the Chinese Lunar New Year episode was slated to be the show’s finale, Khan tells EW.

"Knock on wood, if we come back, every year this will be in our canon. We'll have a Halloween episode, Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year," she says, adding that a Valentine's Day episode is on its way. Chinese New Year is "going to be something we hit because it's important and it's fun."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is my favorite episode ever in this series. Really shows the fun craziness from both the parents side and kids side.
Chinese Lunar New Year resonates with me way more than January 1. I will be showing this ep to my husband who isn't chinese and doesn't quite get why I get super emotional at this time.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 9:22 AM on February 8, 2016

I particularly liked the sentiment in this episode; sure the "Asian Association" had no idea what they were doing, but really, they were well intentioned and just didn't know any better.

1990, though, even in Vancouver BC there was a certain level of casual racism and even occasional overt racism against Chinese. I'm not sure if overt racism has occurred on this show yet? I'd have expected at least a scene where a patron discovers that the Cattleman's Ranch is owned by a foreigner and make a scene. Or kids being mean to each other; so far it was just one incidence and that was cluelessness by the principal (sticking Eddie and the "other Chinese kid" together).

"but were there really "no" Chinese people in Orlando in the 90s?"

Ah, I was in Iowa (between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) in 96-00 and... it certainly felt like I was the only Chinese person there. The other Asians who I noticed were Korean (man, I still haven't had bibibap as good as at that grocery store/2-table restaurant in Iowa City), and there weren't very many. The Japanese restaurant (the only one in the city?) was staffed entirely by 2nd+ generation Japanese, the majority of whom did not speak the language.

Surprisingly, Ames (Iowa State University) had a reasonably sized Asian (including Chinese) contingent and even some Chinese townies (and at least two Chinese restaurants) whereas the University of Iowa (Iowa City) felt like there were barely any. I went to a private college, and yes, I was the only Chinese person there, albeit, via Canada. The other Asian students were all from Japan. There was a person of Chinese descent, but they grew up in Chicago (where there *are* relatively lots of Chinese people) and were 2nd or 3rd generation.
posted by porpoise at 6:10 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

yes, I realize that this show is primarily a comedy
posted by porpoise at 6:18 PM on February 8, 2016

I'd have expected at least a scene where a patron discovers that the Cattleman's Ranch is owned by a foreigner and make a scene. Or kids being mean to each other

'Fresh Off The Boat' Is Funny, Sweet, and Incredibly Dishonest (Pajiba, Feb. 6, 2015)
...But it’s also a really dishonest sitcom that does a disservice to its source material. It’s based on the memoir of Eddie Huang about his experiences growing up in Orlando as an Asian-American kid in the 1990s. His experiences, however, are reflected in the sitcom in only the most general, sanitized way.

In reality, Eddie Huang was viciously bullied by white kids growing up. He was an angry adolescent who would eventually grow up and deal drugs, steal from neighbors, and at one point, face down cops pointing guns at him (this, after he drove his car through a crowd of frat boys who were bullying him). His love of hip-hop was real, but it wasn’t cute. It helped him to cope with the alienation he felt in Orlando. His Dad was also a hard-ass who owned an AK-47 and once made Eddie kneel and bow to police officers after he was caught stealing. His Mom, meanwhile, was a real Tiger Mother so extreme that to depict her accurately would probably elicit accusations of racism on the show.
yes, I realize that this show is primarily a comedy

Exactly. NPR did a write-up on the "Brief, Weird History Of Squashed Asian-American TV Shows", on the very few US shows that featured Asian characters and actors. Though it's just a quick selection of shows, there aren't that many more (see the comments for other shows), and none were great. Lots of stereotypes, lots of Kung Fu Masters and Ancient Wisdom. So a family of fishes out of water sitcom instead of the the harsh reality of Eddie Huang's real life may not be that bad.

As something of a response to the Pajiba piece, here's a pullquote from a New York Times profile on the real Eddie Huang:
Huang feels that by adulterating the specificity of his childhood in the pursuit of universal appeal, the show was performing a kind of “reverse yellow­face” — telling white American stories with Chinese faces. He doesn’t want to purchase mainstream accessibility at the expense of the distinctiveness of his lived experiences, though he is aware of how acutely Asian-­Americans hunger for any kind of cultural recognition. “Culturally, we are in an ice age,” he said. “We don’t even have fire. We don’t even have the wheel. If this can be the first wheel, maybe others can make three more.”

Then, he added, “we can get an axle and build a rice rocket.”
Sadly, we're still taking baby steps in representing (and focusing on) Asian cultures in honest ways on TV.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:50 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wonder if they've managed to sell it overseas - my kids love the show more than any other sitcoms on at the moment, and I'm wondering how it does in Asia.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:37 PM on February 11, 2016

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