Catch me weighing in on the governator’s ascent as an Austrian body-builder to the world’s most famous action star – and his descent after a personal scandal on “Celebrity Damage Control: Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Wednesday, March 11, 9 p.m. EST/ 6 p.m. PST.
And in case you missed last week’s episodes, here’s the trailer I was featured in for “Celebrity Damage Control: Paris Hilton”!
When “Fresh Off the Boat” premieres tonight on ABC, it will be the first Asian-American family sitcom in 20 years. In 1994, “All-American Girl,” starring Margaret Cho, debuted on the same network and survived a singular season. Since the show’s cancellation, Cho has been vocal about the network executives’ utter cluelessness and racial tone deafness over her show, from suggesting show names like “Dim Sum, Lose Some” and “Wok on the Wild Side” to passive-aggressive jabs about her appearance. Although, since they passed on the name already, “Dim Sum, Lose Some” might have to be the name of my future memoir; I never like to see a pun go to waste. Unless, of course, it’s terribly racist. I will have to think about this more. Moving on.
I remember watching Cho’s show as a kid and while my parents found the comedy crass and silly, I saw a glimmer of hope. Yes, the characters were broad and stereotypical, but even though I’m not Korean-American, I thought to myself, “Finally, people who look like me in Hollywood who aren’t just Mr. Miyagi or that one Asian news anchor!” It was normalizing to see myself represented even if in a broad, continental sense.
And while a lot can happen in 20 years, a lot can not happen. As recently as 2013, audiences were more likely to see an alien or creature of some other fantasy race than an Asian woman. So I think many of us Asian-American pop culture fans have adhered to a “take what we can get philosophy” for awhile now: the emasculated nerd, the I.T. guy, the kung fu master, the seductress who always always wears some version of a cheongsam and red lipstick. As an audience whose underrepresentation has, up until recently, squelched the nuances of our stories and experiences, we have had to take the broad strokes because they’re the only ones available. It’s a hunger reflex of sorts. We’ll take the junk food if it just means getting fed; we’ll take it because it’s there.
“Fresh Off the Boat” is based on chef/TV host/ex-lawyer/author Eddie Huang’s autobiography of the same name, which, in part, chronicles his early life and his family’s move from Washington, D.C. to predominantly Caucasian Orlando, Florida in the 1990s. In a New York Magazine article that showcased the bombastic, hip-hop-laced swagger that has come to define his brand, Huang – whose parents emigrated from Taiwan – criticized ABC’s reduction of his story into a “cornstarch sitcom.” After much back-and-forth between Huang and “F.O.B.’s” show runners, he finally comes around, reluctantly accepting of network mandates: “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!”
I get where Huang is coming from, but what he misses, in his initial censure at least, is that most network sitcoms are cornstarchy: basic, reductive and, oftentimes, bland. They go for the cheap, broad laughs, general enough to be appreciated by the widest swath of the viewing population and only specific enough to be inoffensive to that same swath. If one of the fundamentals of comedy is honesty, then a staff of writers and show runners who have first-hand experiences with being the products of immigrant communities are bound to spice up that starch; they add the much-needed flavor, whether it’s Persian or Taiwanese. Huang has clarified his comments since.
And that flavor, ultimately, is distinctly American. See, what has been so lost in the purview of TV and film made in the good ol’ U-S-of-A is that – aside from Native Americans – all of our stories are immigrant stories. We all came from somewhere, our arrival times different but our destination the same. Those staggered timelines mean that the cultural norms of the “old world” are closer to some of us than they are to others. The immigrant stories, and those of the children who become the hyphenate Americans at the crevasse of old and new worlds, make up the patchwork of American-ness that distinguishes us from every other country in the world.
Thus, “Fresh Off the Boat” is coming in, loaded with baggage, under a Tiger-Mom-during-SAT-season level of pressure to represent but not offend, to tell a specific story that’s general enough for everyone, to fill up a two-decades-long drought of normalizing an entire population. Its more recent controversy – over a tweet that depicted various immigrant stereotypes through cartoons in ethnic garb – has thrust the show further into the spotlight. But I’m excited that it’s made it this far and is already generating good buzz.
Of course, the show could still fall flat on its face, descend into caricature, get all up in that cornstarch and roll around in it until there’s no trace of five spice left. But for now, I’ll take it because it’s there, because it’s about damn time.
“Fresh Off the Boat’s” two-episode premiere airs tonight on ABC, 8:30 & 9:30 p.m.
Deflategate got nothin’ on them! Get in a little pre-big game celebrity scandal fix with me when “Celebrity Damage Control: Wesley Snipes” and “Celebrity Damage Control: Kiefer Sutherland” air this Saturday and Sunday!
Per Reelz: “Wesley Snipes is a celebrated and gifted actor with the moves of a martial arts master. But the journey to fame can be a dangerous ego trip, and when he decides he’s even above the law Wesley’s life begins to crumble. He serves nearly three years behind bars for tax evasion.”
And about Kiefer: “Actor Kiefer Sutherland found stardom quickly and easily as he follows in his famous celebrity parent’s footsteps – but it’s his missteps that get him in trouble. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Kiefer plays movie characters audiences love to hate.”
Before she gave birth to dem babies, Mariah Carey birthed a box office bomb called “Glitter.” Catch me weighing in on Mariah Carey’s less-than-glam meltdown on “Celebrity Damage Control: Mariah Carey,”Wednesday, 1/21 @ 7:00 PM Pacific/10:00 PM Eastern.
Follow that up with my commentary on one of rap’s most prominent females on “Celebrity Damge Control: Lil’ Kim,” Wednesday, 1/21 @ 8:00 PM Pacific/10:00 PM Eastern.
I’ve spent the past 72 hours attempting to keep my sinuses from exploding inside of my forehead. I understand this isn’t exactly possible and, in many ways, anatomically inaccurate, but the amount of pressure I’m storing upwards of my nostrils would have you think otherwise. I’m suffering from a hacking cough so violent at times, I tear up and fear that I’ve cracked a rib. It’s not pretty.
And throughout my attempts at decongesting – the endless hot tea swilling and cough drop sucking – I am lamenting that I can’t go to the gym. Yes, it’s catching me a little off-guard, too.
While I’ve waxed poetic about the many reasons I love my gym, most of them have little to do with actual exercising. But over the past year or so, though, we’ve gotten into a rhythm, my gym and I. I’ve plotted out which classes at which location fit into my schedule best. I know the sweet spots in time and days of the week when it will be the least populated. I’ve made my routine decidedly reluctant exerciser-friendly and, in turn, it’s become one of my better habits.
So when a particularly aggressive head cold disrupts this flow, I can already feel the inevitable setback I’ll experience when I am, finally, healthy again: the soreness of my muscles after my first weights session, the unease with which I will stumble through my “welcome back” hip-hop class, how I’ll walk with a dull ache in my calves for two days afterward. The pains of just “getting back into it.”
Which, of course, means I’ve been very tempted to go. But since at least a few of my symptoms are “below the neck” (chest congestion, cough), apparently I should avoid any exercise that’s more strenuous than online shopping. Cold-sufferers with “above neck” symptoms can engage in mild exercise.
As a reluctant exerciser, I’m taking my downtime to relish not being able to go to the gym really listen to my body and gauge its needs at the moment. It’s forcing me to be present as I try to heal it, whether it’s through more sleep, various juice concoctions with added ginger or hours of lazy Sunday afternoon football-watching. So, when I’m back in fighting/dancing/surfing shape, I’ll be ready to face my routine with renewed reluctance, yes, but, more importantly, renewed health.