Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jessica shows Santa who’s lao ban in Fresh Off The Boat Christmas episode

Illustration for article titled Jessica shows Santa who’s lao ban in Fresh Off The Boat Christmas episode

Fresh Off The Boat presents (heyoo!) us with a perfectly packaged (heyoox2!) Christmas episode. I won’t lie: When it comes to Christmas episodes, I have an icicle sized chip on my shoulder. There are only so many gift-and-Santa-based plot lines to be had in this world of finite possibility. So when a show manages to make two very over-done plot lines fresh and, honestly, hilarious, it should be noticed and celebrated.

Our B-plot finds Emery stressing about the perfect gift for his mom. It seems he’s managed it, in a hand-made replica of the Little White Bakery missing from his parents’ elaborate Christmastown.

Side note: How wonderful are the establishing shots between breaks, as the camera slowly pans through the miniature town? There’s a lot of love felt in the quality of this show’s production.

After Emery gets upstaged by Honey, we’re thankfully spared from a frantic trip to the mall. Instead, Eddie ropes him into a beautifully handwritten plagiarization of a Tupac song (“Dear Mama,” duh). It’s an easy back burner story, buoyed by Eddie’s life philosophy of *kick* “Letting it ride.” Emery and Eddie share the screen time perfectly, each playing his part of their odd couple without being overly combative. And the lightly-inferred-Eddie/Grandma-planned destruction of Honey’s bakery injects just enough heart to their tale.

For our main course, we have a mash-up of the usual “Parents caught lying to their child about Santa”–but instead of a simple “Santa isn’t real?” question, or “Jessica learning to relax about fun stuff” conflict, we’re shown a parent trying to instill values in their children by contextualizing it within a popular framework, and refusing to apologize for it. First, it seems Jessica’s being Jessica: insisting that Santa isn’t good enough for her kids to worship. After all, “he’s labor not management—look how long it took him to promote Rudolph! Clearly not good at spotting talent.” But when her attempt at presenting a PhD level Kris Kringle backfires, she doubles down and blurts out that the real Santa is Chinese. Clearly, it’s the first thing that comes to her mind, but it leads to her raising an interesting point at the (remarkably 90s) PC children’s pageant: when Santa is a fat man who lives in the North Pole and flies around the world in one night… Why can’t Santa be Chinese?

At multiple times, Jessica’s insistence on “improving Santa” could be used as a weapon against her, forcing her to reevaluate her principles and embrace our white, chubby, Saint Nick. Instead, she sticks to her guns, ultimately providing Evan not just with the joy of Christmas, but a Santa who is intelligent, kind, lies outside of gender norms, and contains facets of Chinese culture (two, facially, to be exact.) Fresh Off The Boat stands as a testament to what can be accomplished when we add even a modicum of diversity to comedy; a breath of fresh air.


Stray observations

  • Love seeing the Huangs as a married couple. The Jazz walk/Bob Fosse moment is so unnecesassary and wonderful.
  • Louis’s regret: “I accidentally bought 2 bookshops — now they’re in competition.”
  • Louis on Moby Dick: “No I know… I read it.”
  • “I see you haven’t changed your views on Santa” followed by Jessica glancing at a prostrated, face-down Santa in a snow bank.
  • Irish mayor…always drinking heheheh” Constance Wu you win my heart time and time again.
  • Grandma on Garfield: “I love how displeased you are by others.”
  • Smash cut between “Likes children sitting in his lap…” with Honey–the May/December Honey jokes manage to never feel cruel.
  • RE Honey’s cranberry bog-lover: “Is that the summer you were a lesbian?”
  • “Like an unhappy wife, she leaves but always returns” — new slogan for boomerangs?
  • “We have a hot glue gun?” Eddie has been really delightful this season.
  • Everthing about Jessica’s Lao Ban Santa: “–you know those street signs that say Men At Work… women don’t need those. It’s understood.”
  • “It’s like I’m kicking into a mirror!”