Fresh Off The Boat but Not on the Bus

God, I loved this week’s premiere of Fresh Off The Boat.  This show is giving me life.  Funny and sweet and hitting the right notes that would keep me watching anyway.  Anyone can relate to a parent dismissing your most fly outfit because it is too expensive.  Anyone can relate to feeling out of place and making sense of cruelty and irony that is childhood.  I do. I am invested.


I’ve masked the original photo and replaced it with a caption so you know what we are referencing.

Then fellow blogger Grace Hwang Lynch posted a photo of a busload of bloggers during an event for the show.  I am familiar to these kind of blogging trips. I have been flown out to headquarters or offered access to products or invited to dinner, etc.  I’ve been fortunate to attend a few of these junkets, when brands and companies who want a unique perspective and select bloggers who can broadcast their mission and invest a lot of money to get the right people in the room.  It takes a lot of work to coordinate trips, pay for flights and lodging.  Groups like these post and tweet and hashtag the day and get a lot of coverage and create key conversations.  There are meetings and metrics and goals.  It is not an accident.

This is a bus full of bloggers, none of whom appear to be of color, on their way to an event about a show that highlights a family of color.


I looked through the feeds and photos for someone who looks like me, someone I could relate to, the way I lit up when I identified with what I’ve seen on Fresh Off The Boat and what I read in Eddie Huang’s memoir. The first episode mirrored some of what I experienced as a child having been plucked from the tropical island of Saipan and trying to figure out how to be a kid in Salem, Oregon.  Kids made fun of me when I brought a mango to school.  My mom finally relented after I complained that no one else ate chicken adobo at school, so I got to eat the cafeteria lunch and fattened up on tater tots and chocolate milk.

That’s my filter.  It’s not rose-colored, it’s rice-flavored.

This isn’t about marketing campaigns for canned food or soda or baby formula or a new resort, this is about Fresh Off the Boat–a show that is a big deal to so many people like me who are desperate to see themselves in mainstream media and for the past twenty years plus years, we’ve had to survive on 90210 and Saved By the Bell and an endless deluge of television and movies about white people problems because that’s all there was: How was Kelly going to pay for prom?  Would Donna Martin actually graduate?  Will Kristin and Stepheeeen break up after Laguna Beach?!  There were no shows about how our parents wanted us to do more homework to get even better straight A’s or what awful racism gets hurled our way at the school lunch table when we dare bring something as exotic as noodles.

So why weren’t any minorities invited to this event?  I looked through the stream of those who were posting and I couldn’t see if anyone identified as a person of color.  It wasn’t obvious.  But it was obvious that there were people missing, people like me.  And I was mad.  And frustrated at such a missed opportunity to explore a show that resonates so strongly with minority bloggers, especially this week when we are all singing its deserved praises.

I received a friendly message on twitter that read, “it was a preset group for other events/activities to which ABC was a later addition. Hopefully more events to come!”  Which does explain some things, but also leaves me with questions like, “Was this supposed to be all white, all along?” They hadn’t thought to include bloggers of color because they weren’t going to this show about people of color until the last minute? So minorities were an afterthought even in an afterthought activity?  I was told this wasn’t the case, but it feels like it.

I am saying this, this is what it looks like when minorities are not included in something that would be so good for us, for anyone who wants to know–is this how it is?  (Yes) How real is this show? (Very real) How should I feel about this? (Excited!  Yearning for more!) This isn’t about my not receiving an invite and now getting all hurt and whiney.  This is not just my jumping on a podium to tell you this is about race and this is about oversight.  This is my saying when it comes to asking bloggers to cover something as monumental as Fresh Off The Boat: INCLUDE SOMEONE LIKE ME.  INCLUDE US.  Even if it’s at the last minute.  Make the effort.  We have been waiting and we are worth it. There is room on the bus.

This isn’t about the bloggers who were there, who do have large followings and page rankings.  I am sure they are capable of conveying to their audiences what these #abctvevent organizers hope to convey, and maybe they won’t be able to draw on the same experiences of feeling different as a minority but hopefully they will agree with the majority opinion of my friends, bloggers, community and me when we all say: this is a great show, go watch it.

Addendum: So some of the responses have been incredibly supportive and positive and others, ugh.  It looks like there were some bloggers of color on board the bus and maybe one person who identifies as Asian?  It’s been unclear and there hasn’t been one place that sorts out all this info, just a lot of talk about how more research should have been done without any direction to said research. I used the #abctvevent because I wanted to take up space in a hashtag that had excluded the very audiences the show resonates with and the bloggers who could have been part of something powerful.  This is more than a blogger event.  This is another instance in which Asian-Pacific Islanders have been shut out and then when we speak up about being excluded, we have been told to promptly shut up. Here are some other bloggers who haven’t shut up at all and I love the words that are loud and not going away:

“Fresh Off the Boat? How About a Seat on the Bus?” via Hapa Mama

“Rocking the Fresh Off the Boat Bus” via I’m Not the Nanny

“Fresh Off the Invisible Boat and Bus” via The Napkin Hoarder

“Yes, It Matters that #AAPI Bloggers were Left Off the #FreshOfftheBoat Bus” via Reappropriate

“You’re a Pepsi. #AAPI Voices” via Queen Scarlett

“Fresh Off the Boat Blogger Drama” via What I Run Into

“The Blogger Influence – Hello, Monday!” (Ep. 08) via Mama Knows It All

“Did Fresh Off the Boat Forget Asian Bloggers?” via Jessica Gottlieb

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  1. Jason Lee says:

    Networks are old fashioned. Who watches network tv anymore? Old, White, middle-America.
    I only wish FOTB was developed at AMC or Netflix. Imagine how great that show could have been?

    The only way they get called on their ignorance is from blogs like this. I find it hard to call it “ignorance” because they know well what they are doing. But they won’t change, because that’s their belief system. Yeah, it’s an “Asian” show but it will be catered for the audience you see in the photo. The network won’t care if Asian bloggers are upset, they will care if White bloggers are upset.

    The hard truth is photo represents the market they care about. It’s not about Asians getting visibility, nor appealing to Asian audiences. It’s about the veneer of convenient culture that is palatable to a White audience.

    The fact Asians support FOTB gives them a nice “stamp of approval” in the media, so that is an important appeal to their White market.
    If you think FOTB means they have somehow opened the door to Asians, you’re wrong. They are tapping an interest in Asians from White audiences. It’s like grocery shopping at VONS, they need to have their Asian food section- but not authentic, just “ethnic” enough to feel worldly without upsetting the Fruit Loops and hamburger patties one aisle over. Network tv is marketing, catering to advertisers. It’s not a creative decision, or some cultural awakening. It’s aisle 4 at Von’s.

  2. I’ve been to blogger events. I organize blogger events. I work on campaigns. Sometimes I end up with an almost all caucasian group no matter how hard I try because I’m limited to a small geographic area.

    With that being said, if you’re flying people in from all over the country it’s absolutely inexcusable to have them all be caucasian. You simply haven’t done your job well. Not because it’s not PC, not because it’s racist, but because it’s really important to have the public see your product/movie/movement through a lens that looks at least a little familiar to them and by casting a wide net and engaging many different types of people you have a better chance of achieving that goal.
    Jessica Gottlieb recently posted..Rich and Beautiful in Second Grade

  3. Thank you for posting and writing about this! Yes, “someone like me” is a powerful thing. I’ve waited 20 years for this!
    Phyllis recently posted..Fresh Off The Invisible Boat and Bus

  4. They should have made an effort to bring in some bloggers of color, even if it was last minute. But maybe since they couldn’t get it together in time, they shouldn’t have added ABC to this preset group’s event list, or whatever it was. I get it, these bloggers have lots of followers/views and it provides, while not without cost, a relatively inexpensive and effective (for a certain consumer base and reach) form of advertising. Seriously, no one in marketing thought, hmmm, in all likelihood, this particular preset group of bloggers is not going to directly relate to the Huang family and their experiences – and perhaps those in our intended audience who can relate to the Huang family aren’t going to want to read about the show from someone who can’t? The show is great – and I can relate, so can my husband, and to an extent, so can my kids. I don’t want to read about it from people who can’t – nothing against them, just not interested.

  5. Just to clarify, there was for sure at least one person of color who was on the trip. There may have been more since I didn’t see the whole group, but one of them is a blogger friend of mine who writes primarily for the Hispanic community and often writes or blogs in Spanish.
    Craig Yoshihara recently posted..Kevin Costner: Impressive – Both as Jim White in #McFarlandUSA and as a Person

  6. As the person who took the photo used (without permission) in this article and others, I have a few things to say.

    First off, the photo itself was just a fun selfie on a shuttle bus with 25 bloggers. The photo only shows a small handful of the bloggers on the bus. This was not in any way an official PR shot. The trip itself was for McFarlandUSA, with a number of other events (including Fresh off the Boat) tacked on, most likely at the last minute.

    Did you or any off the other writers contact any of the bloggers on the trip to ask about diversity? To ask if there were any multi-cultural bloggers on the trip? Not that I know of. I was certainly never contacted. There were in fact a number of different types represented.

    I’m a bit offended on a number of levels with this. First, that facts were not fully checked before starting to blast a trip, a company, a network and a group of bloggers. Second, that my picture (just a fun, silly photo taken during a packed 3-day event) was used without my permission. It was intended to just share the fun and excitement of the trip, and not be used for political gain. Not only was it used without my permission, but I received no credit or link whatsoever. That’s just courtesy 101 when you steal someone’s photo.

    I ask that you please remove my photo from this post immediately and hope that you do reach out and get more information about the trip so that you can make a more fact-based decision. Thank you.

    • Jason Lee says:

      Accusing a blogger of “political gain” based on this book and show is to completely ignore the discussion and what the media is and have been discussing for months.

      Yes, your photo is used to make a point. A valid point. I know the greatest White fear is to be labeled part of an ignorant mindset, or “part of a racial problem”.
      No one, however, is saying that about the bloggers and it’s curious why someone on the trip would take a defensive, accusatory stance rather than voice support and also ask why there were no Asians. That says a lot about your mindset.

      What these bloggers are asking for is some representation. I see no one accusing other bloggers of anything (except you, making some harsh accusations).
      BTW, an Instagram photo is pretty public and if you think news and blogs don’t have the right to show a public Instagram photo… welcome to the internet?? At the very least, the expectation of privacy is gone. I would get over that “theft” issue because I’ve seen a lot worse carried by major news carriers and aggregates.

      I see you throw down words like, “mulit-cultural bloggers”, “diversity”, “different types” and a lot of righteous indignation.
      All that and still no Asians on the bus.

      • Jason Lee says:

        I’m copying the brilliant response to Andrew, because it deserves to be shown in response.
        from “reappropriate” off of’s blog:

        Reappropriate says

        February 9, 2015 at 10:31 AM

        Andrew, it is unnecessary to contact every blogger on the bus to ask about multiculturalism and participation, and it’s patronizing to assume that people who are raising this concern did it based on judging the faces in this photo alone.. A perusal of the #ABCTVEvent hashtag provides an almost comprehensive sampling of everyone on the bus, along with links and bios. You guys published the guest-list through participation in the hashtag.

        We do all realize that the hashtag is public, right?

        Also, we do all realize that publishing your photo to the promotional hashtag in relation to a publicity event does render a screen-capture of that photo part of journalistic fair use, right (specifically with regard to review and critique)? Also, it is attributed to you: your screen name is shown as the publisher of the image.

  7. Just a quick thank you for updating the photo so quickly. Si yu’us ma’ase!
    Andrew recently posted..Celebrate Anna’s Birthday with the New Disney Frozen Fever Short


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