Ever since it was announced earlier this month that a sitcom inspired by celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memior “Fresh Off the Boat” got the greenlight for its first season, there have been two big reactions. The first: finally, a sitcom focused on an Asian-American family! And the second: What’s up with the name?
Huang spoke with Buzzfeed about that name, which Huang reportedly chose for the sitcom and has historically been a derogatory phrase used against Asian immigrants. Tanya Chen and Rega Jha call it “a ballsy cultural subversion” that the words “fresh off the boat” are voluntarily entering the most mainstream space in the United States.
A source close to the upcoming comedy series said the title of show was Huang’s choosing (and was one he fought hard for) as a nod to both the way his family was perceived when they arrived in America in the ’90s, and how they saw themselves.
Fresh Off the Boat’s creator and executive producer Nahnatchka Khan, herself a child of immigrant parents from Iran, was happy to support that fight. “The title certainly isn’t meant to be offensive, but Eddie is who he is and he’s not going to apologize for it,” she told BuzzFeed. “We just took his lead.”
Huang, however, disagreed with those targeting [his use of the phrase] on Twitter. “These people are bigots,” he said. “There are people in every race who try to speak for everybody and try to legislate what you can think and what you can’t think, with no understanding of what it means to interpret an experience. It’s ‘fresh off the boat.’ That’s a term that Asians call each other and we claim it and it’s worn with pride.”