Home Reviews My Two Cents: Disney Trips & Fresh Off the Boat Controversy

My Two Cents: Disney Trips & Fresh Off the Boat Controversy

by TerriAnn
Fresh Off the Boat Review

I usually don’t like to write anything controversial on my blog. But, with the comments I’ve been seeing online regarding a certain press trip that included promotion of the ABC series, Fresh Off the Boat, I felt compelled to chime in. Why? Not only am I an Asian American who continues to face many of the issues touched upon by the Taiwanese family in the series but I’ve also attended several “Disney trips” and know the basics of how they work. It’s also important to note that I personally know many of those involved in the touchy conversational threads.

All kinds of toes can get stepped on on both sides of any disagreement, especially when it comes to matters of race. For example, when ones dismisses the emotional pain caused by unjust treatment as “being too sensitive,” they devalue the worth of a fellow human being. Conversation about race is not a choice for many, it’s a part of everyday life. If you don’t understand that, be glad you haven’t since it’s not nice. On the flip side, showing racial pride and only surrounding one’s self with those from the same background inadvertently shuns others like a color-coded clique. I have a better feel for different cultures than many know and people who have met me in person can attest to the fact that I can pretty much blend into pretty much everyone, despite my awkward tendency to be kind of reserved in groups.

For the purpose of this post, I am only going to touch on issues raised by who was (and wasn’t) present on this trip and why it should (or shouldn’t) matter. This first part is about the trips so scroll to the next subheading if you want to skip to the part that relates to the show.

The Much-Talked About “Disney Trips”

First off, it’s important to clear up how these trips work. There is a main public relations representative from Disney who generally organizes the brunt of the event and makes out the invitation list. There is no secret in getting invited aside from posting about Disney-related material including current and upcoming films. He’s extremely good at his job and is the main reason these trips are still happening.

New faces are included on EVERY trip but the number of which are invited varies. When bloggers have shown themselves professional when dealing with celebrity talent, have completed required social and blog posts, and have proven their personal worth for such an all-expense paid trip, they are more than likely invited back one or more times. For those that haven’t? Well, they don’t come back and the rep is left to clean up after the havoc they’ve wreaked. There are thousands of bloggers hoping to get invited one day so, as a tip, whining about not being invited or putting down those who are invited will not up your chances.

For those that are on the trips regularly, have you ever looked at the number of twitter impressions, amount of Facebook engagement, and total page views to blog posts that those bloggers have achieved? The social influence of each of them is staggering. They also ask intelligent, relevant questions during interviews and conduct themselves as a one should on a casual business trip. Are they personal friends of the rep? Yes, and that is what happens when you spent time together on these trips. Each one is a bonding experience as you share in once-in-a-lifetime activities and interviews. Numbers aren’t the only factor taken into consideration but these bloggers have earned their recurring spots.

Most events revolve around one upcoming movie release. After all, Disney’s theatrical features are the main responsibility of the rep mentioned above. Sometimes, lesser known movies are added to the mix. Another rep, who takes care of home entertainment, may add on titles coming to Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and Disney Movies Anywhere. In the past year, another rep, who works on promotion for television series on ABC, includes more titles to the tentative itinerary. Interviews with directors, producers, animators, and star talent are arranged, as are other activities related to the movie, television, and at-home media titles. On every trip I have been a part of, last minute things have been tacked on. Whether it’s a never-before-seen movie screening, a star-studded interview, or a behind-the-scenes tour, those surprises are always good ones. But that also means more work.

Disney puts a lot of money into these trips. So it only makes sense that attending bloggers have some requirements on their part for the event. It’s not uncommon, depending on activities being covered and release deadlines, to have an upwards of 15-20 posts due over several months. Two to three days of a hectic, packed itinerary, during the trip itself, is exhausting. During my last Big Hero 6 trip, the rep said to me, “You always say you’re not coming on any more of these but then I find a way to bring you back.” So true, Mr. Mommy Blogger.

I’m always grateful for the experience but, after each trip, I vow to not go on any more due to the energy it drains from me and the amount of work (as evidenced by days and days of promotional posts for Disney). But, after turning down several invites, one email will show up in my inbox that I can’t refuse. I’ve been on events for Marvel’s AvengersMonsters UniversityFrozen, and Big Hero 6. Can you blame me? It’s not every day you get to shake hands with Tom Hiddleston, do a voice-over for Olaf, or have some girl talk with Jamie Chung and Genesis Rodriguez.

Attending Bloggers and Fresh Off the Boat

Was I invited to the event which included Fresh Off the Boat? No. Was I invited to the event held just before it? Yes. The point is, not everyone invited can attend for one reason or another. Was Fresh Off the Boat part of the original plan? I have no idea but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a last minute addition. I do know that that wasn’t the main focus of the trip and will likely only make up about 10-15% of the trip. Would it have been nice if an Asian blogger was pictured in the group? Yes.

While it’s good to have other cultures and those with kids that are part Asian on the trip, there is something about hearing from someone that has a personal connection to the show. Just how African American bloggers were part of the black-ish trip I was on, it gives a unique perspective. While you can empathize with a person’s views, you can’t truly relate unless you’ve walked in those same shoes. Would I have gone if I was only invited based on my race as a “token” Asian? Honestly, how good does that really sound? While it’s nice to see diversity in photos, I want to be recognized by my talent and valued opinion. Not because they HAD to have an Asian person there.

Fresh Off the Boat Review

Now on to the show itself. What people don’t realize is that Asians often get the shaft. When it comes to featuring White, Blacks, or Latinos, Asians end up as an invisible groups that blends into “Other.” It’s the same in Hollywood, the news media, fashion, etc. Normally, most don’t make a big deal about it. That could have something to do with what the mother in the show warns, “Don’t Make Waves.” Yes, we’re taught to not complain about why things are unfair but to just work harder so it is fair.

My family regularly watches The Middle (the White family) and black-ish (the Black family). It’s not because we relate to the racial stereotypes but because we relate to the family dynamics. So when I saw the Fresh Off the Boat logo on our Hulu screen, I was intrigued. The last show I remember that starred an Asian family was the one with Margaret Cho, a cynical parody of growing up in a Korean household while living in the States.

Fresh Off the Boat Review

The title, Fresh Off the Boat, immediate caught my attention. Growing up, we referred to FOB’s (how it was shortened) as those coming straight over from China. My sisters and I didn’t want to be confused with “the people” that had no sense of personal space and wore all kinds of clashing ensembles (i.e. red stripes with pink polka-dots). After all, we were 5th- and 6th-generation American. The only Chinese we knew was some of the food. I spoke more Spanish than I did Chinese and, in a pilot language course for Cantonese in high school, all the non-Chinese kids did better than me in pronounciation. I can’t tell you how many times the old ladies behind the bakery counter in Chinatown corrected me in how I said “joong” (sticky rice tamale).

Still, I can recount several times I’ve been faced with stereotypical remarks and public portrayals. It’s hard to overlook children singing, “Me Chinese, Me Play Joke…” or having people make fun of the language while pulling the corners of their eyes or having Mickey Rooney go beyond satire in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Unfeeling comments have come from people of all backgrounds, as if making fun of Asians is some neutral space.

Back to Fresh Off the Boat. There were many moments in the first two episodes that I could relate to. I grew up in the East Bay (east side of the SF Bay Area in California), first in a predominantly caucasian neighborhood and later was surrounded by many African American friends. I listened to both Ace of Base and Notorious B.I.G, well at least the clean songs that had a nice hook, and watch Saved by the Bell and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

That said, I’m not sure if I’ll keep watching. I find the oldest son disrespectful, the foolish portrayal and reverse callousness of comments about “White People” unnecessary, and think the show lacks originality. Plus, the language was over the top as a light family comedy, in my opinion. I do realize that the first few episodes have to iron out kinks and get certain topics out of the way. Time will tell if this is a series we’ll continue to watch.

Diversity on Disney Trips and Fresh Off the Boat Controversy

So, while I hear my fellow Asian bloggers and regret a lack of (yellow/olive) color in event photos with the #FreshOfftheBoat hashtag. There are always two sides of the story, if not more.

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JulieD February 9, 2015 - 9:07 am

I didn’t know about this situation until I woke up and saw your post, TerriAnn, shared on facebook. I haven’t read all of the posts about this or the upset but I do have to say that I have been following some of the press about this show because it’s groundbreaking (and was a little dismayed by the twitter incident that happened on the show’s twitter account). I have been excited for this show to premiere and watch it. Not only because it follows an Asian-American family but because it’s based in Orlando, where I grew up!

And I’m excited to see a sitcom about an Asian-American family on network primetime again. It’s been way too long. I’m old enough to remember watching Margret Cho’s show 20 years ago and while I know I would see her show back then differently today, I remember being sad when it was canceled.

I have to say when I saw there was going to be a Disney film trip that included coverage of the Fresh off the Boat show, my first thought was to think, I wonder if there will be Asian-American bloggers on this trip. Because it is important to have diversity and for brands to include bloggers of different ethnicities but even more important for bloggers who identify with the characters in this show to be there to cover it.

I don’t think anyone meant to exclude anyone and obviously I don’t know the racial make-up of the group invited (I feel so odd even saying this). And while no one wants to be invited and be the token Asian (or insert racial or ethnic background) in any situation, TerriAnn, I think it’s important to have representation. I have actually reserved judgment on this matter and was hoping to hear from the bloggers who are attending/attended and hear from any Asian bloggers who attended.

As for the show, I think the main character Eddie is hilarious and reminds me of my siblings and I when we were kids. Socially awkward, made fun of at school for being different, eating different food and misunderstood by our parents. I’m first generation American. Thank you, TerriAnn, for posting this!

PS I have to say that I’m a food blogger so I don’t think I would ever be invited on one of these trips and that’s not why I commented. I went over to Marshall’s profile and read a post there and Debbie wrote a thoughtful and amazing comment there and it prompted me to comment and not stay silent. Thank you again.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 9:26 am

And thank you too, Julie. I always appreciate your perspective…and your food photography/recipes 🙂

Claudya February 9, 2015 - 9:28 am

TerriAnn, gurrrl you have got a great brain and you can write. Very, very well-written post. Total side note, whenever someone brings up “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” I cringe because of Mickey Rooney. Even as a young child I could barely sit through the movie because of his performance and I’ve never watched it again because of that.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 9:36 am

Aww, thank you Claudya. That means a lot coming from an accomplished writer such as yourself. Glad I’m not the only one with the reaction to that character!

Kathy Zucker February 9, 2015 - 10:03 am

Amazing post, TerriAnn. Thank you for sharing.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 11:29 am

Thanks, Kathy.

Jana | Merlot Mommy (@merlotmommy) February 9, 2015 - 10:36 am

Thank you for sharing your perspective and your personal story. While I spent a lot of time with my adopted Korean cousins as a young child, I am caucasian. I never in a million years would have known how cruel people could be would if not be for people sharing their personal stories. For trips like these, the selection process is heavily based reach and professionalism than anything else, and it certainly has nothing to with the color of one’s skin.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 11:31 am

Thanks for adding your perspective as well, Jana. Just because one person isn’t the brunt of cruelty doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. For any trip, there are good ways at getting noticed and bad ways…

Kelly Stilwell February 9, 2015 - 11:39 am

Thank you for writing this. The first part is exactly what I have wanted to say. I worked so hard to improve my reach in hopes of being invited on a trip. I was thrilled to be invited on several of the Disney trips, and they were amazing. But you are right in that it is SO much work. And for the McFarland trip, I retweeted and shared, because we are team players. When I’m on a trip, I see so many other bloggers who have been on trips doing the same for me. Working together is so much more productive than complaining.

I absolutely loved hanging out with you on the Big Hero 6 trip, and hope to see you again soon.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 11:54 am

You’re welcome and it’s true that we can support each other 🙂 Likewise! We need to get together and chat more next time!

Liz Mays February 9, 2015 - 12:15 pm

I just love you, Terri Ann, and by the way, you don’t come across as reserved at all. 😉 I think it’s great that you spoke up and said your peace. I can’t speak to the show or controversy because I didn’t even catch any of it, but I will agree that there’s an extraordinary amount of work that goes along with being on one of the trips. We’ve talked about that!

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 4:39 pm

Thank you, this was a toughie to write and to publish. I hope the conversation can continue but put this one isolated event in the past. These trips, in general, always have people up in arms.

Maria Adcock February 9, 2015 - 1:55 pm

Just to be fair because it seems like the message is getting lost, the bloggers who are raising concerns about a lack of Asian representation are referring to not Disney PR trips in general but to specifically a Fresh Off the Boat event for a show that features an Asian American family going through some specific Asian American challenges (like being called a “chink”) which they can relate to. Simplifying it to just “sour grapes” about a random blog trip as some commentators seem to be doing is missing the point of the bigger picture and dismissive of some valid points (this show was based on Eddie Huang’s best selling memoir which a lot of Asians can relate to so perhaps it makes sense for some Asian voices to be a part of promoting it).

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 4:45 pm

I agree that the message is getting lost and that it should not be just this one event. I’m sure more promotion is in the works if the show gains popularity. I think what turned people off is when they saw things like, “Why wasn’t I invited?” to using photos that didn’t belong to them. Plus, it touched on an already sensitive subject in the mom/dad blogger world of the Disney trips. That’s why I hoped to clear each up separately and hope for more constructive ways to support each other. I should also point out that I found a list of influential Asian bloggers and I was not on it, despite meeting several of those bloggers in person and blogging for five years. We all run in different groups and it just means I have to make myself known more, not because I was excluded as being more or less Asian than someone else but because my online voice wasn’t strong enough to the right people.

Maria Adcock February 9, 2015 - 5:36 pm

Hi TerriAnn thanks for your reply. Regarding that list, Thien-Kim said in her post she knows she’s probably forgetting a bunch of people. I noticed people have been adding others in via the comments (I saw you added yours and I’m sure she’ll add it in when she has the chance). I just added two more comments of other bloggers I know who can be added to the list. As we find more we should keep adding on since there’s no “Asian Bloggers” directory that I know of so this could sort of be like one.

Regarding the sensitivity of being on Disney trips, some of the bloggers writing about the FOTB event aren’t parenting bloggers so they really wouldn’t be aware of that – they’re just reacting to the lack of Asians at an event about a show featuring Asians. I don’t think anyone disputes that people work hard to get where they are with their blogs. I hope the conversation steers back to having Asian voices represented in general versus Disney blogger events.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 6:06 pm

I agree. I’d really like to not have to feel under-represented all the time and I applause these women’s courage to speak out, especially since it’s not something I would have even thought to do. Maybe we can all find a way to pitch in and search out others!

Mitch February 9, 2015 - 5:09 pm

Not to down play the issue, but it seems like folks are always complaining about one thing or another related to these Disney trips. And they are amazing, but they are also non-stop work, before, during and after. We must all just make it look fabulous and easy, so it is our fault!

You wrote a beautiful article re the dissension circulating in the blog world about who should have been invited on this last trip. Thank-you for that.

I actually just saw the first episode and am really torn as to whether or not to let my son see it. He has been dying to, but in some ways I feel like it would teach him more about being racist, which is counter productive to the work we have done raising him. I enjoyed it, but I am older and can process the subject matter better.
And he is now in middle school in a class that is half Asian. And one of his new friends makes fun of himself like a self deprecating comedian. Needless to say, this kid is hysterical and shows great smarts in his sense of humor. So maybe my son is old enough to figure it out, why aren’t we given a guide book!

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 9, 2015 - 6:04 pm

I think the fact that it was one of the Disney trips was the ticker. I can understand your struggle. Where’s the line between not being too serious and just putting yourself down. I’d suggest waiting to see a few more episodes if you’re not sure. You know your son better than a television show so if you don’t like the direction it’s heading, then you can make a better judgment call. If it’d be good family entertainment that opens up new subjects than conversation, then it might be different.

Donna February 9, 2015 - 8:11 pm

What a well-written and articulate post, TeriAnn. If nothing else maybe this will open up the dialogue about having more Asian voices. I’ve never been invited on a Disney trip, nor would I have the time to write and promote all the posts required before, during, and after a trip. 🙂 I sure do have a lot of respect for all the bloggers, like yourself, that do these Disney trips!

Virginia @thatbaldchick February 9, 2015 - 8:12 pm

I honestly hadn’t heard of Fresh of the Boat until today, and haven’t seen any of the shows. That said, as a racially blended family, I really tire of the unnecessary jokes about race in shows. Regardless of which race the joke is about, 1) it isn’t funny, 2) it isn’t appropriate, and 3) it certainly isn’t classy. When my Caucasian son is asked why his baby sister is “brown” instead of “white” like he is, he responds, “Just like flowers, God made people in all colors. And just like flowers, it doesn’t matter what color we are because all of us are beautiful.” Seriously, from a 7yo. He could teach some adults I know a few lessons.

Amanda February 10, 2015 - 7:48 am

Wonderful post, Terri Ann. As a blogger who aspires to attend one of these Disney trips someday, I know that I would just be thankful for that kind of opportunity. I’ve noticed lately that there’s a lot of complaining instead of being appreciative for the opportunities these trips provide. I also imagine that it is no easy task to round up 25 bloggers who can commit to the trip both professionally and personally, and I understand that sometimes there may be more of one ethnic group than another. It’s also counter-intuitive to invite just black people to black events, or Hispanics to Hispanic events, or Asians to Asian events if the goal is to provide exposure for the movie/show/DVD/whatever.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 10, 2015 - 9:43 am

Thank you, Amanda. It’s true that these trips have been a sore spot to many while others set them as goals. Great point about reaching a mix of audiences for a wider exposure. It’s all about balance and diversity.

Kasandria Reasoner February 10, 2015 - 4:03 pm

TerriAnn you know I ove you! This post was such a refreshing change to those I keep seeing. Controversy to some is just about the page views. It’s crazy how many were quick to jump on the bandwagon and post about the issue, but had no facts to back up their posts. Thanks for giving your opinion. 🙂

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 10, 2015 - 11:28 pm

Thanks, Kas. I understand raw emotion was involved and some thoughtless comments from the other side flared it (talking about the using the race card, saying it was only jealousy, etc.) It wasn’t about the page views to those bloggers. It was about being shut out from one place their voice could be heard. It’s a struggle I understand very well as an Asian American. However, I would have liked things to proceed in a different way.

Sunny Huang February 10, 2015 - 10:51 pm

TerriAnn, I appreciate your input, but hopefully this article by Jenn on Reappropriate can provide some clarification.

Also, I am very disappointed in the vast majority of the bloggers and commenters here for missing the point: Asian Americans aren’t complaining about Disney blogger/PR trips in general, but we are rightfully unhappy about there being exactly 0% representation on a trip for Fresh Off the Boat and Big Hero 6, which are franchises for an Asian American audience. It is Marketing 101 to include at least one person of the group your franchise represents on a PR trip such as this. Does this make sense?

To better open your eyes, further reading: http://reappropriate.co/?p=7875

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 10, 2015 - 11:22 pm

Hi, Sunny. Thank you for your comment. I do understand, quite well in fact. You say that those who spoke out weren’t complaining about Disney blogger/PR trips in general but refer to one such trip without understanding how they work in the first place. Assumptions were made and photos were used without permission. That doesn’t help. It’s important to reach more audiences that would otherwise not be interested in the show too to raise awareness. Also, while there were no Asian American bloggers on this last trip, it was not the only promotion in the works for the show (even before the chaos broke out). Did you realize the blogger you referred to also posted a second article at http://reappropriate.co/?p=7888 which stated that things were not as they seemed. That blogger said they “heard through the grapevine” new facts but I am in direct contact with the PR handling this.

In reference to Big Hero 6, a larger event happened that last November and I was part of it. It would have been nice if Asian bloggers celebrated that then and helped to promote my posts or supported me as I interviewed people like Jamie Chung or asked the directors about the Japanese influence in the movie. You see, I’ve worked long and hard to grow and maintain a large social following, create quality content, and to be respected by companies who will send me to such trips regularly…as an Asian American.

I just hope that we can all approach this is a professional manner so Asian voices are respected and acted upon.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 10, 2015 - 11:24 pm

Oh and the trip was actually for McFarland, USA. Fresh Off the Boat and Big Hero 6 could have been added to the itinerary last minute, something that happens quite often on these events.

tina February 11, 2015 - 12:26 am

So thoughtfully written TerriAnn! Outstanding.

TerriAnn van Gosliga February 11, 2015 - 7:45 am

Thanks so much, Tina! We still need to get together soon 🙂

Penelope February 11, 2015 - 9:11 am

I was reading about this too, and saw opinions on both sides of the issue. I’ll be honest, I agree with you, and think bloggers with a readership that is specifically the demographic of the show should have been invited. They have more interest and investment here, and someone who is a popular blogger without the right demographic as a readership (and who may or may not actually watch the show themself, but saw this is a fun campaign instead) may just not have the passion to promote this show as much.

It was a bad call. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the show though 🙂

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