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Eddie Huang is an idol of mine. I think what I like most about him is his unapologetic nature. He goes against the stereotype of what an Asian man in America is often portrayed to be. His best-selling autobiography Fresh Off the Boat, which was adapted by ABC into a sitcom, was the first time in my life that I remember seeing a cast full of characters that kind of looked like me. Shit. Was. Awesome. That feeling is indescribable; however, those of you who are reading this and have also shared this experience, know exactly what I am talking about.
Well, it did not help that the show kind of sucked. The pilot was great, but the rest was not, and Eddie Huang eventually left the show due to “creative differences.” AKA he wanted nothing to do with it and he felt it did not represent him. The point of me telling you about this is because representation has a lot of meaning to a lot of people in this country. Even though the show missed on a lot of things, it showed cable TV networks that there was a market for this sort of diverse content. Telling the story of some FOBs? 20 years ago, that type of thing would have never happened. It would’ve been laughed out of the pitch room.
Fast forward to about a year ago and Eddie announces that he is writing and directing a basketball film about Asian Americans. I love basketball and I love being Asian, so this sounded like a win for me. I’ll cut right to the chase. Boogie is alright. The acting is mediocre at best, but that is in large part to many of the main characters, including Pop Smoke, having never acted before. It’s a solid 3.7/5.
But the substance of the film is amazing. It showcases perfectly the Asian experience of searching for identity in white society. It shows the impact of tradition and family within an Asian household. It highlights the impact of Black American culture that many first-generation Asian Americans feel drawn to. There is one scene where Boogie is talking to his love interest, Eleanor, about how Asians have been reduced to beef and broccoli in American society.
This scene is more than just a poorly acted clip, it’s dealing with a really deep and powerful issue. Asian people are capable of being more than just beef and broccoli. They can be actors, basketball players, line cooks, doctors, sanitation workers, and plumbers. They don’t have to be what white Americans have seemingly boxed them into, where they are represented by this mediocre white-palleted dish.
There is another scene, a pre-sex scene let’s call it, where Boogie is worried if his dick will work or be good enough. This is a scene that is long overdue in Hollywood, and I am honestly glad Eddie Huang was the one to do it. It’s probably the most taboo subject with Asian American men but the reality is it’s something that we, as a people, have had to deal with since we were little. Asian men have been emasculated in our American culture on TV, movies, music, books, etc. Pretty much any form of medium and Asian men have gotten the short end of the stick (pun intended).
This is why the film works–it tackles the taboo subjects surrounding the Asian American experience and puts them right on the big screen. It forces its audience to reconcile with the historic portrayal of Asian Americans in the media. Note that American white culture chose Crazy Rich Asians as THE film that showcased the Asian American experience–the one that put our faces on the big screen when in reality most Asian Americans are not crazy rich. That film only told the story of the top percent. But Asian Americans are just like the majority of Americans: working and middle-class with family issues and personal issues.
This is why Boogie is important. This film tackles the hard issues. The ones that no one wants to talk about. For that, I appreciated the film and was able to overlook its poor acting and possible confusing screenplay.