The news that ABC has made the bold decision to green-light Fresh Off the Boat, a new Asian American family sitcom airing 20 years after the cancellation of All American Girl, has already been making headlines.
And, if the last 24 hours has been any indication, Fresh Off The Boat is hugely provocative. Already, the show has sparked online controversy, specifically from pop culture critics questioning the possible political insensitivity of the show’s name.
Seriously. How is "Fresh Off the Boat" an OK thing to call a show?????? I am baffled.
— Carrie Raisler (@TVandDinners) May 13, 2014
This reaction is not surprising: it reflects the critics’ recognition of the term as a historic racial slur referencing new immigrants, coupled with ignorance of how “Fresh Off The Boat” (or “FOB”, pronounced “fob”) has also evolved to reference a core cultural dynamic within contemporary Asian Americana. The term “Fresh Off The Boat” is not uniquely Asian American, but it has strong Asian American connotations and distinct cultural significance for members of our community; in the context of this show, it is obvious “insider” language.
This morning, Alex Abad-Santos explored the meaning of the term “Fresh Off the Boat” for Asian Americans in a great article for Vox.com. The article quotes me in writing:
“The show is setting itself up to educate about the term,” Jenn of Reappropriate [said. She] voiced a mild concern with the title, explaining that the term lives somewhere between an insult and self-deprecating humor.
So let’s start that education process here with the question: what does “Fresh Off The Boat” or “FOB” mean?