Is The New Normal Funny Or Offensive? I Can’t Decide

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.
Share This Post:
    • lizzy

      Too soon to tell… I like some of the cast choices but it’s a fine line between trying to appear uber cool vs. plain ugly stereotyping and it takes seriously talented writers to pull it off – or it has to be an animated series like the Family Guy

    • Guest

      I’m on the fence with this as well. I love the show and I like the comedy. That said, I think a few of the lines push the wrong button. We’ll see how it all plays out I guess. Again, loving the show. The message on life it’s delivering are pretty decent.

    • lizzy

      I didn’t make it through the 2nd episode last night and switched to a repeat of the B in apartment 23. Cast in the New Normal starting to come across like caricatures for me. Which means it will probably be a hit ;-)

    • Callabos

      I found this too be the most exciting, dynamic new show I have seen in some time. It’s not a reality show, it’s not a singing competition. Its as close to a real life as the sponsors allow. Maybe not for everybody, but I am glad to miss reality tv for a reason.

    • Wesley

      As long as you’re offensive to every minority, I don’t think it’s fair to actually take offence. I’m gay myself and I absolutely love the derogatory remarks and jokes Nanna makes about the gays!

    • Daerius

      Give me a frickin’ break! When did we forget to stop laughing? When did gaiety leave the world of “Gay”? I haven’t laughed this much in ages and consider this to be some of the tightest comedic writing that I have seen in YEARS! I am a 50 year old gay man. I have lived through the 70′s disco days. In the 80′s, I watched lovers and friends die from AIDS. In the current decade I have seen us fighting for the right to marry and have families. I have actively been involved in protest after protest. I still haven’t gone to a Cinemark theatre since the passage of Proposition 8! But this dogmatic devotion to political correctness has got to end for Pete’s sake! Ellen Barkin’s character is an Archie Bunker for the new millenium. It is a character who embodies all of the hateful, stereotypical views of nearly half of the country, but does so in a way that is obviously making fun of those views. Even some of the other characters might make occasional off-colored remarks. But taken as a whole, the script shows the ridiculousness of all of our prejudices. If you don’t get that, then I think that you are missing the point. You probably also don’t understand the concept of sarcasm as a form of humor! Give it a rest already. If you have to question whether you should be offended, then you REALLY have not experienced true hatred. Because when true, homophobia (bigotry, racism, sexism, age-ism) is present…you don’t have to wonder whether or not to be offended. You just ARE offended. And quite frankly, if a show like this offends you, then you must be pretty darn thin-skinned.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lonniebraxton.jordan Lonnie Braxton Joseph Jordan

        I’m assuming your a white man, sorry. Men of color *black* men still recieve slaps in the face instead of love, with remarks of racist rants in the gay community. So to sit back and gabble and laugh that this show is pushing everyone to a higher consciousness as a whole?….i think not. This show should be called “westhollywood-true”. To walk in another races shoes for a day would be a spell i’d cast on some people.

    • Steven

      This show is deplorable. It isn’t the barbs they fling at minorities then excuse and later “take back” that make it unbearable, it is the ones they don’t repeal. Ellen Barkin, in limited scope and intelligence (as witnessed in interviews), is the perfect jester for this fool’s court. They brandish a childish and racist view of all conservatives, decidedly and ignorantly, without apology. Nana is all conservatives, isn’t she? Hmm? The New Normal (?) is a truly bizarre rewriting of present-day, actual, real-life nuanced thought that can simultaneously convey the conservatism of responsibility in the quest of a smaller, less Id-prone government and still work toward the realization of individual liberties through the much more precise lens of libertarianism.

      This show is at best myopic, but more accurately medieval.

    • Steven

      This show is deplorable. It isn’t the barbs they fling at minorities then excuse and later “take back” that make it unbearable, it is the ones they don’t repeal. Ellen Barkin, in limited scope and intelligence (as witnessed in interviews), is the perfect jester for this fool’s court. They brandish a childish and racist view of all conservatives, decidedly and ignorantly, without apology. Nana is all conservatives, isn’t she? Hmm? The New Normal (?) is a truly bizarre rewriting of present-day, actual, real-life nuanced thought that can simultaneously convey the conservatism of responsibility in the quest of a smaller, less Id-prone government and still work toward the realization of individual liberties through the much more precise lens of libertarianism.

      This show is at best myopic, but more accurately medieval.

    • Pingback: Velociriot! | American Race Story()