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“That which we call a rose by any other name would totally freak out,” posits Fresh Off The Boat

Shelby Fero Apr 27, 2016. 24 comments
TV ReviewsAll of our TV reviews in one convenient place.  

Juliet (you know the one) once asked “What’s in a name?” Of course, she then also immediately asks Romeo to change his name (as if that would’ve solved all their problems?) because Juliet knew that names carry meaning for ourselves and those around us, whether we like it or not. “Hi, My Name Is…” attempts to answer Juliet’s question, taking us down roads traveled and names picked. As Evan determines what name he will assign to his first savings account, we see each Huang’s take on the matter.

Let us not take for granted, ye Fresh Off The Boat cold opens. You’d think texting was invented in the 90s, the way FOTB so rarely phones it in. Sure, breaking a toaster so that Evan can open his first bank account (so that the Huangs can discuss their names) seems contrived. But, well, TV is contrived. It’s Fresh Off The Boat’s natural orchestration of plot that, ironically, makes the show such a stand out. While “Hi, My Name Is…” centers around our personal relationship to names, the exploration of the Huangs’ weird familial breakfast habits – and Evan’s bursting excitement to open a bank account – don’t feel like filler.

At the bank, Evan can’t wait to sign his name to that savings account (complimentary toaster included). But it’s in these hallowed bureaucratic halls that Evan makes a startling discovery: His name is some random nurse’s. And not even the nurse’s first name – or the nurse that delivered him, for that matter. This leads to a tiny existential crisis of sorts, as Evan spirals out over the randomness of his moniker.

In an effort to console her son, Jessica retells her own origin story. It’s 1980, and the Allman Brothers soundtrack formerly-not-Connie’s announcement that she’s now Connie. Jessica calls her a sell-out, in so many unspoken words, and vows to retain her Chinese name. But after a business professor makes a Juliet adjacent case about Butte Juice, she changes her mind. Yes, people should learn to pronounce her name – but will they? Is she willing to take that chance? She’s not. So: Jessica. It’s a heavy topic, changing one’s name to assimilate (lightened, slightly, by Eddie’s loud declaration that he’d love some Butt(e) Juice). But Jessica explains that she wasn’t losing her Chinese name: She was gaining opportunities by giving people a name easy to pronounce. “Bob.” Then, a week later, “Jessica.” For her, putting on an Americanized title as a way to get ahead makes sense, and is a small concession in much the larger tapestry of her identity.

Louis steps in, realizing this isn’t as consoling as Jessica clearly thinks. He points out that Eddie and Emory’s names are just as random – it’s a happy coincidence that naming Eddie after a villainous C.S. Lewis child would turn out to be semi-prescient. This is the oil-slicked flipside to the stickiness of identity: A lot of it is, like, totally random. Hell, my dad was so sick of being one of six “Mike”s in a class that he and my mom just flipped to the back of a boy’s baby-naming book to pick my little brother’s. Louis, similarly, chose a random name: He loved Lou Ferrigno! Well, not quite. He saw a really cool guy who owned an aquarium named Louis. In a way, Louis did the opposite of Jessica – he used the perceived power of a name to try and change himself. And it’s when he introduces himself to Jessica – as they vie for the restroom after some tainted fish meats – that he decides “Louis” is the only man he wants to be.

Now it’s Eddie’s turn to propose an alternative route: Make up your own name, from the streets. It’s about 40 seconds of 90s nostalgia but set in the future. It is “ok.”

A red herring, Grandma’s outburst over the shackled pen belies the helpful advice she gives Evan in the bathroom. Crystallizing the meaning of Juliet’s dramatic soliloquy and the Huangs’s meandering flashbacks, she reminds Evan that it’s not the name that makes the man, but the man that makes the name. No matter what, he is her grandson. Now, steal this plant for Grandma.

Stray observations

  • Thanks to a commercial for Sprite (“Live Thirsty” TM Sprite: a product of Coca-Cola), I remember what real life Eddie Huang sounds like, and while I’m not unhappy that they phased out his voice-overs, I forgot how good of an Eddie Huang impression Hudson Yang does every week.
  • I’m so sorry about the amount of times I typed “name” in this review. I apologize to friends and foe alike, both mine and yours!
  • “We’re going to be opening him a free toaster account.”
  • “Unshackle the pen!” Grandma and I have similar bank excursions.
  • JB Smoove; God among guest stars.
  • There is no world, real or imagined, where you have a face tattoo.
  • “Sup, President Shaq?” More important: sick Vice President Barkley burn!
  • “When my father died swallowing all those buttons…” So this is how Louis dies…
  • “You could call it the Moon Rock Festival!” Jessica is good at everything.
  • Of course Grandma’s American name is chosen to bandit herself a mighty fine collection of Garfield.

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