Much has been written in recent weeks about the proliferation of offensive and un-funny racial humor on the new NBC sitcom 2 Broke Girls. “Making jokes about said Asian boss like, ‘You can’t tell an Asian he made a mistake. He’ll go in back and throw himself on a sword,’ isn’t funny, it’s just gross and stereotypical and treats Asia as if it’s a single country without distinct national lines and cultures,” writes Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. Of the black character Earl, she adds:
Then there’s the cashier, Earl, an older African-American gentleman, who sits around saying things like, ‘That’s the exact same sentence that got me hooked on cocaine,’ or making horrible jokes about rape at Duke. There are some relationships where I suppose it might be okay for a younger white woman to say to an older black man that she’s making cupcakes that are made with “Delicious dark chocolate the ladies can’t help but love. I’m calling it the Earl.” But in the context of a show that hasn’t even reached the 30-minute mark between its two episodes, that just reads as kind of gross.
There’s also a thoughtful piece up over at Racebending that reminds us that 65% of Brooklynites are people of color, and the show is squandering an opportunity to have well-developed minority characters that make sense within the context of the show.
When questioned about this tired reliance on retrograde stereotypes (I’m paraphrasing) at a recent event, co-creator Michael Patrick King had this to say:
By ethnic characters, I’d say the hipsters…And Max is sort of the lord and ruler of that diner, so she’s going to take everybody down, the hipsters, the immigrants, the girls, and most importantly, herself.
Way to blame your racism on a fictional character, dude. Max didn’t come to life and write ethnic stereotypes into the plot. But while we’re talking about her, as far as dramatic devices go, it’s probably not the best idea to try to get people to root for a protagonist who constantly says racist shit.
He’s also not sorry for Han‘s pan-Asian minstrel show:
“There’s a comic sweetness to him that’s an innocence, and the fact he’s an immigrant from Korea is part of his character,” writer/producer/director King said, noting that the character will be rounded out as the season goes on.
By “rounded out” I can only assume he means Han will gain some weight and become the butt of fat jokes, as well. Or maybe they are planning to add some Korean-specific jokes about bi bim bap?[tagbox tag="racism"]
It’s not like King and co-creator Whitney Cummings are going to admit their show is racist, so I can’t blame them for this non-response. I also can’t blame various writers for calling them out, because fuck, it’s 2011 and people should know better by now. However, I think that critics are failing to see the bigger picture, and that is this: the people working on 2 Broke Girls can’t write funny jokes about race because the people working on 2 Broke Girls can’t write funny jokes, period. From the slapstick poop gags to the wildly inaccurate lines about Brooklyn, this show is just not very good. And unfortunately, when poor execution meets racial humor, you end up with results that read as straight up racist jokes instead of jokes about racism, as I will charitably assume they were intended to be. I realize not everyone can be Louis CK, but if you’re going to fail at writing comedy, you should at least try to fail in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself.