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 Avengers, Monsters University, Frozen, 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.
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.