I am tremendously disappointed in finding out on Instagram this afternoon that there was a “Fresh Off the Boat” blogger event in conjunction with the “Big Hero 6” event today, and that not only was I not included in this, but that none of the influential Asian American bloggers were. I never heard back from Ellen Gonzalez at ABC.
In our phone conversation on Jan 20, you repeatedly stated that you wanted to help and to be a friend to the Asian American community. You offered me a spot on the tour, but said ABC had no budget to fly me down from the San Francisco Bay Area to attend, even though the photos clearly show a group of bloggers on a tour bus on their way to the studios. And I understand that your group was not even able to secure a spot for Cynthia Liu, a well-respected and influential blogger who lives in LA and requires no travel assistance, to be the lone Asian parent blogger to represent us at this event.
We also talked about the influence and reach of Asian American bloggers and our community’s high rates of digital engagement. While our numbers in terms of hits and followers may not be as high as some of the bloggers that Disney works with, the quality of our content and the degree of our influence and engagement with the right people is important. Among us, we have journalists and writers for larger publications, vloggers and even stand-up comics. Disney inviting even a few Asian bloggers to this event could at least extend a welcome to let us know that our community is recognized and valued.
The actions on the part of ABC send a clear signal that the company does not think it’s worthwhile to put any effort into multicultural marketing — or at least marketing to Asian Americans. Perhaps ABC feels that Asian Americans are already on the band wagon in support of “Fresh Off the Boat”, without any additional outlay on the part of ABC. Or perhaps you don’t want “Fresh Off the Boat” to be pigeonholed as an Asian show, or even a show targeted to minorities. All too often, the media ignores Asian American stories. Or frames them only as they relate to larger society. Or perhaps Disney thinks that by inviting a group of white, middle-American mom bloggers, the show could be framed not as an edgy, urban program and more as a family-friendly sitcom.
I understand those concerns, I really do. And I really celebrate ABC’s willingness to be the network that is willing to take a risk on an atypical TV show that doesn’t fit neatly into anyone’s preconceived notions of a family sitcom. And that ABC has hired a great team of producers, writers and actors to execute this vision. It is truly a milestone, not only for the network or those directly involved with the production, but for all of who are watching at home and seeing a family that resembles ours on the screen (some for the first time). And we watched the premiere with baited breath, hoping that this would finally be our community’s chance to be recognized on network TV, not just for our own fulfillment, but to illuminate our experiences to our friends, classmates and neighbors. Or to the person who lives in a town and knows no Asians at all.
But even after our discussion about “Big Hero 6” outreach, ABC expressly chose not to engage with the Asian American community, by not inviting even one or two token Asian bloggers on this trip. You could have invited me, you could have found numerous other Asian American social media influencers. I even offered to work as a consultant, and I could have helped you identify the right mom and dad bloggers who could bring the voice and personality to these publicity efforts.
I’m not blogging for free DVDs or free trips, even all-expense paid trips to Aulani. Just as I write about my own daily life, I’ve been writing about “Fresh off the Boat” because it’s also my hope — and that of almost every other Asian mom or dad blogger that I know — that “Fresh Off the Boat” will show the human side of the Asian immigrant family. That we will not be those foreign people who speak unintelligible languages and eat smelly foods and parent our children in incomprehensible ways. That it would show that we, however flawed we may be, are just hoping — like Eddie says on the show — for a “seat at the table”. That we could be humanized and that people would recognize that we are just trying to make our way and want to do the best we can in raising our own families.
I see from the social media chatter that the bloggers on the tour had mixed reactions to “Fresh Off the Boat”. One woman said that she didn’t think her kids were ready for all this talk about race and “white people”. Well, neither are my kids, but they have no choice but to be ready for race and racism. As a child, I experienced being called a “chink” and having teachers mispronounce my name and classmates taunt me with nonsensical “ching chong ding dong” sounds, just like Eddie did. I even wrote a piece published today on Mom.me about how watching Fresh Off the Boat can be a springboard to talking with your kids about these sensitive topics. I also wrote a preview of the show on BlogHer.com earlier this week. Perhaps if I, or another Asian American blogger had been in the mix, we could have brought a personal touch to the conversation. They could see that we are also good people, and they might even like us and listen to what we have to say.
As I’ve said earlier, I’m a big fan of “Fresh Off the Boat” and will continue to write about the show and support it as I see fit. But blogging is also a business, and one in which people of color have traditionally struggled to find opportunities to earn revenue from their work. More than any other demographic group, Asian Americans tend to blog in their own free time, buying movie tickets out of pocket, and traveling our own dime, often after working a full-time job elsewhere, because it doesn’t seem feasible that our websites— even the tremendously popular ones — can bring in the kind of sponsorships that can offset our overhead costs. Brands have shied away from us in the past because they “simply didn’t know what to do with us”. I say this because I wish ABC would extend the access and the courtesies to make it easier for us to cover and write about the shows we hold dear to our hearts.
I’m so disappointed by these events that I don’t even know what could appropriately rectify the situation. “Fresh Off the Boat” has been hailed by critics as a ground-breaking show that challenges people to think about race in new ways. The irony is that this publicity tour has not been handled in a culturally competent way. Please don’t tell me that ABC or Disney wants to be our friend, because friends who say one thing and then treat each other badly are no friends at all. It’s better to know clearly know where I— and the rest of the Asian American community— stand.
Mona Conception’s post at Kirida: Fresh off the Boat But Not on the Bus
and Thien-Kim Lam”s post at I’m Not the Nanny: Rocking the Fresh Off the Boat Blogger Bus
and Phyllis Myung’s post at Napkin Hoarder: Fresh Off the Invisble Boat and Bus
Jessica Gottlieb’s post: Did Fresh Off the Boat Forget Asian Bloggers?
Chris Lam at What I Run Into: Fresh Off the Boat Blogger Drama
Brandi Jeter at The Blogger Influence: http://youtu.be/wNe5Dv1a7mo
Marsha Takeda-Morrison’s post at Sweatpantsmom: I’m so Asian
Fairy Princess Diaries: Made the Boat, Missed the Bus… #FreshOfftheBoat
Kathy Zucker: Own Yourself