Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fresh Off The Boat and the Commodification of Diversity

Many of this weeks blog posts have rightly noted the fraught project of representing marginalized identities on the screen. Not only do television shows about "minorities" carry the burden of representation (in which they are seen as responsible for accurately representing an entire etho-racial identity / community, despite the inherently heterogenous and complex makeup of any group), they also face pressures to stay within certain political boundaries in order to maintain support from advertisers and networks. These pressures beg the question: who are these representations intended for?

The debates in the posts below reminded me of a fantastic article Eddie Huang wrote about the ABC adaptation of his memoir, Fresh Off The Boat. In it, he describes his disillusionment with network TV and his anger at the underlying assimilationist ideology and US nationalism imbued in the show's narrative. At the same time, Huang concedes that there is something powerful about seeing an Asian-American family on TV again, for the first time in some 20 odd years. Can we celebrate certain gains in the industry for people of color while still remaining critical of the narratives they are employed to produce?

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