As a former Gleek who once loved what Ryan Murphy did with Glee, I looked forward to watching his new show The New Normal. Not only did the premise of a gay couple starting a family via surrogacy sound promising, but it features an all-star cast that includes Broadway superstar Andrew Rannells, Ashley Olsen’s ex-boyfriend Justin Bartha AND Ellen Barkin. What more could I want in a new prime time comedy?
I thought that it could possibly capture the fun and wit of the first season of Glee, without all the saccharine dialogue and cast-member-for-every-possible-stereotype that followed in later seasons. But instead the pilot episode for the new show made me ask the same question that I asked myself during almost every episode of Glee before I finally stopped watching.
“Is this funny or is this offensive?”
Does this Asian joke cleverly point out Asian stereotypes while shining light on bigotry — or does it just re-enforce the stereotype? How does this joke about lesbians further our acceptance of them — and how does it hurt it?
So despite the promising premise of The New Normal, I got caught up in my confusion over whether it’s okay to laugh at these jokes. Jokes that all qualify as racist when out of context, but possibly funny when said by Nana (Ellen Barkin), the bigoted grandmother who serves to make us laugh with her neverending stream of offensive remarks. Imagine Sue Sylvester being even more offensive. Times that by ten and you have Nana.
The following 7 quotes came out of her mouth during the 30-minute pilot.
- ”Look at them strutting down the road in broad daylight, proud as peacocks.” – Nana referring to a lesbian couple.
- “I happen to love the gays, I could never get my hair to look that good without them…and now with the PDA. They have some nerve.” – Nana referrring to her great-granddaughter Shania (Bebe Wood) calling her a bigot.
- ”Those are ugly men.” – Nana referring to a lesbian couple
- “Did I ever tell you I set my troops records for cookie sales, in spite of that Mindy Goldfarb, she’s tried to Jew down my customers.” – Nana talking to Shania.
- ”You, Hello Kitty Out” – Nana speaking to an Asian woman.
- -”You people are so darn good with computers, thanks for helping to build the railroad” – Nana speaking to the same Asian woman.
- “I feel like I just ate a black and gay stew right before I feel asleep, this is a nightmare.” – Nana referring to the entire surrogacy situation.