Remember back in November when Eddie Huang took to Twitter to sound off about voiceover lines he was being fed for “Fresh Off the Boat,” the upcoming sitcom loosely based on his eponymous memior? Now, the celebrity chef has written a no-holds-barred essay for New York magazine about whitewashing, images of Asians in media, the TV business and his clashes with writers of the ABC show set to premiere on February 10.
Huang writes about how he fought the sanitized palate of producers and studio heads for a truer depiction of his childhood growing up the son of Taiwanese immigrants in suburban Orlando. What he gets isn’t exactly what he wanted, but it’s something. Huang writes:
This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won’t take that gamble right now. You can’t flash an ad during THE GAME with some chubby Chinese kid running across the screen talking shit about spaceships and Uncle Chans in 2014 because America has no reference. The only way they could even mention some of the stories in the book was by building a Trojan horse and feeding the pathogenic stereotypes that still define us to a lot of American cyclope. Randall was neutered, Constance was exoticized, and Young Eddie was urbanized so that the viewers got their mise-en-place. People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network’s approach to pacifying them is to say we’re all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit ‘em with the soy. Baking soya, I got baking soya!
Our parents worked in restaurants, laundromats, and one-hour photo shops thinking it was impossible to have a voice in this country, so they never said a word. We are culturally destitute in America, and this is our ground zero. Network television never offered the epic tale highlighting Asian America’s coming of age; they offered to put orange chicken on TV for 22 minutes a week instead of Salisbury steak … and I’ll eat it; I’ll even thank them, because if you’re high enough, orange chicken ain’t so bad.
Read the rest at Vulture.