Whether it’s Hollywood’s ignorance, a lack of numbers, or racism on the part of show creators, Asian Americans have been nearly invisible in the television landscape. Most who read AsAmNews know about the absence of significant Asian American characters in mainstream media. I won’t go over that here. If you need the history, you can read the Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast also talked to several long time observers of Asian Americans in the media to get some insight.
“Part of it is just numbers,” said Phil Yu, founder of the Angry Asian Man blog. “Asian-Americans are a fast-growing population in the U.S. now, but we have been a fraction of the U.S. population, and we have been ignored as a viewing population. But it’s also people not knowing how to write things about Asians.”
L.S. Kim, a professor of Film and TV at UC-Santa Cruz, agrees.
“I have this theory about a false premise that Hollywood operates on, which is identification, that you only like to watch people like yourself. So the argument is that Asian Americans constitute only about 2 percent of the population (actually closer to 6 percent today), so we won’t take a risk on something that only 2 percent of the population will watch. I think identification is not about your own personal race, sex, etc., but it’s about the potential to have compassion.”
And that’s exactly what Nahnatchka Khan, Fresh Off The Boat’s executive producer, thinks the audience will take away. The show is about life experiences shared by all of us in our own unique ways and through our own distinct cultural lens.
“What we really want to underscore is the feeling of being the outsider, I think it’s something people can relate to whether you’re an immigrant or not,” said Khan. “The new kid at school, some version of that. And in the show, Eddie is even a black sheep within his own family. That’s the universal theme people can connect with.”
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