FRESH OFF THE BOAT: DIVERSITY ON TELEVISION
People who have often seen their image on TV have no idea the effect it has on someone who hasn’t. African-Americans often bemoan the lack of African-American presence on TV and in film and rightfully so. If there is one group that has been significantly more affected by a lack of representation (positive or even negative), in my opinion will be Asian Americans. You see, if a mainstream show sucks and it gets cancelled, they make another one. However if a show starring a minority group (Hispanics, African-American or Asian American) fails, there’s an assumption that it is because mainstream audiences do not like shows about those groups experiences and then the networks/studios just stop making shows about those groups.
For anyone who has grown up seeing faces like theirs all the time on TV, they have no idea what it means for young people (and probably old too), to see themselves on TV. I know it shouldn’t be a basis for validation, but pop culture and entertainment is such an essential part of our lives that it can’t help but play into how we see ourselves or how others see us. I can’t even begin to explain the importance of black characters on my fave shows growing up or that time a black chick, Vivica A. Fox showed up on 90210, yes that’s how bad it was. Yes, there was Blair underwood on L.A Law (showing my age) and there was a fun period of black comedy shows à la Fresh Prince, Family Matters, Martin etc… but those shows and comedy were the exception and not the rule. Try to think about black leads (lets not even talk about black female leads) in dramas, not really the case until my dear Shonda Rhimes.
I have heard great things about this new show “Fresh off the Boat” and I know it seems weird asking that people watch a show solely to show support, but I would actually argue that even if I heard horrible things about this show, I may still insist that people watch it, lest the studios take another 20 years before they “experiment” again. (Note: I have heard some people have reservations about a show whose title plays on certain stereotypes but you should check out the book the show is based on before making any judgments).
Interestingly and understandably, I have noticed the growth and increased popularity of Asian American vloggers on YouTube. I can’t help but imagine that so many young Asian Americans have found YouTube as democratization of content, a space in which they can find other young Asian Americans, who look like them and sound like them and not some ridiculous stereotype.
The world I live in is diverse and it is horrible to assume that black people only watch black people and white people only watch Friends (Ok, I’ll admit they do but who doesn’t). Long story short, I’m just saying Watch it, you may walk in thinking “Asian Show, Asian Family”, but I think you’ll leave thinking- that family acts a lot like my family or maybe now I know something I didn’t. At the end of the day it’s a human story and one that deserves to be acknowledged and shared on mainstream media. No group of people should ever be made to seem invisible- unseen and unheard. Rant Over.
Reposting an Open letter in the form of a Comic Strip from one Asian American Dad which basically reiterates what I’ve been thinking: