This episode revolves around the block party the Mean Girls of Orlando (i.e. Jessica’s neighbors) are planning in order to celebrate the Daytona 500. Like Jessica, I don’t get the big deal about NASCAR, either, but in Orlando, which isn’t that far from Daytona, I’m guessing it’s a big thing.
The episode also saw the development of Jessica’s friendship with Honey, the new, younger wife of their next door neighbor. Even though Honey and Jessica become friends because of their shared love of Stephen King and stinky tofu, Jessica has to choose between her new friendship or the success of Cattlemen’s Ranch (which Louis believed rested on Jessica’s friendship with the Mean Girls, who run the whole neighborhood).
Let’s get into my opinions:
Poor Walter and Eddie: I haven’t read Fresh Off the Boat, so I don’t know if Walter and Eddie ever become friends or, at the very least, form an alliance. I would suppose why would they, since Walter did call Eddie the C-word and all. But Walter and Eddie are both in the same boat when it comes to the white school bullies. The kids ridiculing Eddie for not having Jordans and saying that Walter didn’t need Jordans all comes down to understanding how to use America’s racial privilege system.
The Mean Girls of Orlando and The Help: Those women seemed like the 1990s version of those women from The Help. Even down to excluding the new lady to the neighborhood because she’s hotter and snagged one of their own and Deidre (the leader) reciting all the “facts” she knows about China and Taiwan from a documentary she watched in college, expecting Jessica to fall in line, and the group using En Vogue as their karaoke inspiration. (The Help version of this is the Mean Girls group raising money for children in Africa, even though they hate black people in America.)
Eddie and ODB: Some kerfuffles came up over whether or not ODB and rappers during this time were “All About the Benjamins.” Indeed, they were not, at least not to my knowledge. 1997 was more about that life than 1995, once Puffy got popular. But in any event, the fantasy rap scene makes several points. 1) Emery’s right—life is not a rap video, and thank goodness for that, and 2) Eddie’s reliance on what is perceived to be the black experience is just one side of the complicated relationship black and Asian Americans have with each other. Both perceive the other side to be cooler than the side they know. I’ll be writing about this later today in a lot more detail so if you’re interested, hang tight. EDIT: Here’s the article!
The one thing I will say is that even though I respect Eddie’s deep knowledge of hip hop, there’s something to be said for just being yourself, something Emery seems to have down pat. Emery doesn’t ever try to be anyone other than himself, and that seems to be his method of gaining acceptance. Meanwhile, Eddie is trying his hardest to be “cool black” instead of just “Eddie.” This seems like what was at the crux of Emery’s statement of life not being a rap video.
Grandma’s feet: This marks the first time I’ve heard a character talk about bound feet on television. I’ve been told through Twitter that Eddie writes about the anger he had about his grandmother’s feet being bound in his book; I hope there’s more discussion about this in the upcoming episodes.
Evan’s gossip: Some of the best parts of the episode involved Evan being used as a “representative” for the family at the block party meetings. Evan eventually went from just being a Huang rep to one of the girls, gossiping with them about Honey and her supposed man-stealing ways. Hearing/seeing him retell the Mean Girls story about Honey was priceless.
In this episode, Jessica and Louis are welcoming Jessica’s family to their home. “Welcoming” is being generous; they really don’t want them to come, since Jessica’s sister Connie and brother-in-law Steve are seen as the more successful of the two families. Jessica feels she has to compete with her sister for their mother’s affections, while Louis wants to make Steve—his former boss back at the furniture store—jealous of the success he hasn’t achieved yet. Both families come to terms with the fact that both are fronting; Connie hates being the new “favorite” daughter now that Jessica’s moved away, and Steve has to tell Connie (and everyone else) that he was actually behind on payments for his new/used Miata.
Also in this episode were the cousin conflicts. Eddie’s cousin Justin is the one who turned him on to hip hop in the first place, and Eddie’s too excited to show Justin just how deep his knowledge had become since. But now that Justin’s “grown up,” he’s into grunge, leaving Eddie behind in Rap World. Eventually, Eddie, who idolized his cousin, realizes that Justin has become lame and boring. This leaves him the opportunity to finally invite Evan and Emery into Rap World, too. They’re only too excited, especially since Eddie doesn’t think they have “baby ears” anymore.
Success perm=Jheri curl?: I had never heard of the Success Perm before, and I guess that makes sense, since, as I wrote the last time, I didn’t grow up with these experiences. But, I’m wondering; is the black equivalent of the Success Perm the Jheri curl? I’m only putting it out there since the stature that the Success Perm seems to give reminds me of every scene Coming to America involving Soul-Glo, especially the scene where the affluent Jenks family (the Soul-Glo clan themselves) is at the McDowell home for the Christmas/impromptu engagement party, greasing up the couch with their juicy hairstyles. Another thing that sparks this correlation: Louis saying Eazy-E had a good Success Perm, which was in actuality a Jheri curl. Just throwing the thought out there; grab it if you want.
Memories of O.J.: It’s been a while since I looked back the O.J. case, but seeing bits of the television coverage on Grandma’s TV brought me back to my childhood, especially when every black kid in my class cheered at the news of O.J. getting off (our parents were the ones who didn’t want to see a successful black man go down, but now we all know he was EXTREMELY guilty).
Out of all the stuff I’d heard about O.J. as a kid, the theory Jessica’s mom provided, that they’d switched out O.J.’s, was a new one. As it would seem, the theory turned out to be true enough for the grandmothers, since the repo man was having a tough time with those gloves.
Those are my thoughts on the episodes! So far, I’m loving the episodes and can’t wait to view more. I think the show is achieving its goal of giving the country a new view at the American experience. For the longest, Asian America has been seen as “mysterious” by a large chunk of the country, but with Fresh Off the Boat, and hopefully more shows like it coming down the road, that stigma will be erased and we’ll become a better America for it.
EDIT: I forgot to discuss the Huangs cleaning up the house like mad people. Minus the lemon trees and Pert bottles, my mom would have us cleaning the house company just like Jessica did. Including the shaped soaps in the soap dishes. Afterwards, it’d be like a hotel in there. Again, Jessica and my mom are turning out to be the same person.
Photo credit: Nicole Wilder, Gilles Mingasson/ABC