capturing critical theory out in the world: f.o.b.

ignorant people please do not make me clap my hands in your face <— is my response when I hear the word f.o.b. uttered as a descriptor in casual discourse

for those who use it, here are the following parties:

how white people use it: you know such and such is f.o.b. from ohio.

– that usage is incorrect to begin with not only are there no boats that go to ohio from chicago but the terms origin f.o.b. Is inherently an othering (key word: derogatory) of foreigners i.e. of people not born in America.

how brown people use it: let’s totally be f.o.b.s and sing to Bollywood songs.

-understandably Bollywood is not american but when one assigns such a distinction (f.o.b.) to the enunciation of Bollywood songs they are creating an inherent dichotomy of their identity. Thereby, part of them is f.o.b. and part of them isn’t, they are bifurcated. This ideology is a contradiction because one can simultaneous sing Bollywood and american pop culture songs. You don’t need to be a f.o.b. to know Bollywood songs, rather this remark signals an discomfort with their identity. That they cannot or do not see themselves as simultaneously occupying both spaces.

your apartment is so fobby!
someone who I thought had an affinity with me told me this to my face. Not only did I know to respond, I naively asked why? They responses with degrading my apts furniture. I wasn’t living meagerly but reserved as what usually a students apartment looks like, borrowed furniture, 2nd hand couches etc. F.o.b. has a strict class relation, using second or old items is a economic signifier of ones financial status and is the implication that a f.o.b. Is one is of a lower class. It is a qualitative measure that prizes newness as a signifier of financial stability and upward mobility framing the mirage of American Dream.

Longevity of the term

As immigration peaks in one social group than others. The term has been passed off from one economically advantaged minority to the disadvantaged one, from one socially refinished to ones ignored. F.o.b. has always had negative implications far more dire groups than others. But besides the native Americans whom we have relegated to the margins of society, weren’t we all in our lineage (some more recent than others) all f.o.b.’s ? While that may be the case, I abhor at the history of the term because it has never been neutral, it is a socio-economic signifier that degrades a community based on their immigration history – hostility toward the other.

The show Fresh off the boat started recently dramatized off the book written by Eddie Huang. The show is family oriented, warm with cleaver bits of satire written in. But let’s be clear the show as Huang had pointed out in his op-Ed only 85% correct. He wants to show the more brutal side of racism and being constantly other-ed growing up. His dad beating his mom, domestic violence is perhaps more common place than once thought. It is a subject almost never approach big networks. A lot was dumbed out or down during the writing process in order to make the show more relatable to mass public (read: white people). While I agree with Huang and believe that true-to-life staging would have had his summed a cathartic if not full response from the audience. Putting the audience in Huang’s place, how does it feel like to be other-ed? Which I believe the show currently does in some cases, others it glosses over. Huang does not want the make the same blunder as was the critique of Margaret cho’s all american girl (1995). Being the first show to focus on a Chinese-american family, focusing more on the latter half of their identity, that regardless of their immigrant identity Margaret was attempting to fully become the latter, American. The show was canceled after its first season. I have different hopes for Huang’s show however.

The show & info about Eddie

The family in Fresh off the boat isn’t really fresh off the boat. They have already been living in a Washington China town when they move to florida. They have been in America for a while now hence negating their freshness.

Immigrant kids obsessed with hip hops

They are comfortably middle class

Traditional nuclear family structure, fitting neatly into patriachic conflgutatiin, stay at home mom, dad who works. Jurisprudence excersied that there mom is not a “tiger” mom.

They’re accents: they have been living in America for how long? Accents generally don’t last that long if they are as social as the family is and how long the family has been staying in America.

Here what Constance Wu said about accents,

Speaking of the accent, some felt it was very controversial for you to portray Mrs. Huang with her Taiwanese accent. Why do you think accents in general are so divisive when it reflects actual humans?

Asians have been so rarely represented in mainstream media and historically, especially in the early stages, the accent was used as a humor tool with jokes written about it. But now I would challenge people who say that Jessica’s accent is stereotypical and ask what does that mean? An accent is not a stereotype, it’s just a set of linguistic phonetic changes that happen when your mother tongue has a different set of phonetic constraints than the newer language that you are now speaking. Stereotype enters when that accent is used for the purpose of humor. Of course there are people who are laughing at my character’s accent for very coarse reasons, but we aren’t writing jokes about the accent. It’s an important shift to make.

Recently, a lot of Asians actors want to neutralize their roles on television and say ‘This person is playing a character who happens to be Asian and that has nothing to do with their identity.’

That is a trend that is flying across all minorities, it seems…

My grandfather was an illiterate bamboo farmer and my dad really had to work himself up academically to get a full ride scholarship and a Ph.D in biology in America. He didn’t have a leg up anywhere, he had to work to get that. To even say that that type of journey has nothing to do with my place and opportunities now is dishonorable.

I don’t think that identity is purely determined by race and if a story wants to focus on other things that are important to the narrative, that’s great. But it’s not harmful to say that ethnicity plays an important part in identity and that that part of the story matters. It’s not fodder for humor, it’s just another unique and beautiful element of humanity. Hopefully, we celebrate that. And we’re also a comedy! We want that comedy to be great and warm in our show, which Randall and I both found important

The names: their names all sound so white.


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