Jessica On 'Fresh Off The Boat' Is One Of The Realest New Characters On Television
ABC's newest comedy Fresh Off The Boat may have received more than its fair share of controversy well before its series premiere. And while the series' first two episodes did show some stereotypical "fresh off the boat" moments, it turned out to be one of the sweetest new comedies of the new year with some of the realest characters, starting most importantly with the matriarch of the Huang family: Jessica. She may be the only woman in the family and she may portray a few Asian cliches at times, but Jessica is definitely a real woman enduring a tough new living situation to the best of her abilities.
The series, based on the true life of chef and author Eddie Huang, follows Eddie and his family in 1995 as they uprooted their lives from Washington DC to move to Orlando, Florida, to run a restaurant that looks eerily similar to a Golden Corral. Why do they move? Because Eddie father wants to make the family stronger and to create something rather than live his life working at his brother-in-law's business. The concept is noble, but the move is completely sudden and takes the family quite some time to even start to understand their new life. And while Eddie is shown to be taking it the hardest at first, Jessica has her own, very real, struggles.
Being a mom in a new suburban Caucasian neighborhood can be difficult, as a member of an Indian family who had to move to a very small town in Texas, I know this was the case for my own mother. With women not understanding or wanting to understand her culture, lack of money thanks to their new restaurant's weak business, and the added insult of humidity wreaking havoc on her hair, Jessica has many moments where she is completely fed up with her new life in Florida. But she understands that no one can blame her if and only if she actually tries to embrace her life. So she attempts to do just that, but even then she doesn't lose the things about her own personality and culture that make her genuinely unique.
She doesn't completely understand the concept of free samples at the grocery store, she doesn't understand Eddie's need to have Lunchables, and in the second episode "Home Sweet Home School," she attempts to homeschool their kids after school because their grades are too high. And she doesn't really understand what is so freaking exciting about supermarkets. To be fair, who does really understand why a supermarket would need so many exclamation points after its name. But the other, more stubborn things in her life, she's willing to consider changing if it means more health and happiness for her family.
The interesting thing the series reveals in the second episode is that Jessica considers herself to only see the worst in people, yet her husband Louis is the opposite. She proves this by hitting a few kids who tried to dine and dash from the Haungs' restaurant with her car and then forcing them to apologize to Louis because they still left without paying even after Louis tried to appeal to their emotions not to do so.
But Jessica will always see the good in her family, regardless of what they do and in spite of what they do. In the pilot, Eddie gets in a fight after defending himself from a bully that calls him a racist term. And normally when a child from a "fresh off the boat" family gets in trouble, that family allows for a severe punishment to teach the child a lesson. We assume that will be the case for Eddie, especially considering he believes his family won't take his side in matters of having trouble assimilating to his new life. However, Jessica is more than a little upset that their child is the only one being reprimanded when all he did was stand up for himself. She will stop at nothing to protect her family, from defending them fiercely, to backing off her slightly crazy (at times) ways when it is deemed necessary. That makes her one of the realest moms on TV, "fresh off the boat" or not.
Images: ABC (screenshot); frolic-chronis/Tumblr