An Open Letter to Jessica Huang of ‘Fresh Off The Boat’

This is an open letter to Fresh Off The Boat’s Jessica Huang, portrayed by Constance Wu, the Asian queen of my heart. 

Dear Jessica,

Oh, Jessica. My radiant Jessica. Where should I start?

I have never met you and you have no idea that I exist. But it is important for you to know that I am obsessed with you. Madly, irrevocably obsessed. I understand if you are feeling apprehensive. After all, this is highly irregular.

Please let me explain myself.

Since I was little, growing up in Thailand means that we have always viewed caucasians to be better than us in every aspect of life. Tourists have a saying that Thailand is the “land of smiles”, but that might just be because we are too afraid to communicate with westerners in any other way, except to smile. To us Thai folks, white people are richer, smarter, and more capable. We do not dare raise ourselves up to their level, not even by speaking to them.

Hollywood has taught us that white people live in beautiful houses and drive nice cars. They can propel themselves to superstardom just by writing a great song in a garage one day. They can drill a hole in an asteroid and save all human kind. They can even repel an alien invasion in ridiculously tight outfits. We, the Asians, are vastly inferior in comparison. Rather than lead the fight, we only stand by and watch as our national monuments get trampled to the ground by evil robots.

Then you came along, Jessica.

You are not armed with a sword, nor are you armed with numerous scientific degrees from ten different universities. You have blazed through on sheer will, wit, and heart. Sometimes, I look at you and I cannot believe that you are real. Here is an Asian woman who is capable, funny, warm, loving, sarcastic, harsh, flawed and perfect all at once. You might be proud when you are right, but you are also contrite when you are wrong. You laugh and mock, but you can also cry and be kind. You are a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, and a business woman. You are infinitely more than just one thing. And you have been all of these things without having to unleash a single kung fu kick!

It is difficult to choose my favourite moment of yours. Attacking your eldest son with a huge fluffy bunny doll to teach a lesson in consent is definitely right up there. So is the time you accused a bunch of unruly twelve year old boys for “hitting [your] car with [their] bodies”, or the time when you expressed pride that your son was “rejecting white culture” when he became allergic to western food.

I was empowered when you took your professor to task for not caring to learn how to pronounce your Chinese name. I cheered when you called out your husband for blaming you for your son having lice, just because you are “the mother”. I laughed so hard when you flippantly remarked in such a cool and sassy way that, “All white people look the same”. I cried with you when you found a best friend in your kind-hearted neighbour Honey, and also when you shared loving moments with your family.

But the moment which I love most was when you dressed up as Chinese Santa for your son, just because you did not want him to lose faith in the magical just yet. When the moment occurred, I considered writing a 1,000 word think-piece on the cultural symbolism of such a moment. However, I have since realised that no long-winded analysis could ever do the moment justice, for at the heart of it, the moment boiled down to just one thing: your heart as a mother. You were not trying to become the female Bruce Lee or create a historic stance for Asian-Americans in television. Instead, you just wanted to make your son laugh. You wanted to give him the Christmas he’d dreamt of, and you wanted to make him feel emboldened by his heritage, not marginalised by it.

Above all, you just wanted to see him happy. And it did not matter one jot if it meant you having to act the fool.

So thank you, Jessica, for being yourself so fiercely, selflessly and unapologetically, and for doing so in such kick-ass 90s clothes.

We all have fallen completely in love with you. I imagine that you are looking quite smug right now and I do not blame you.

Come on. You already know how awesome you are.

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