Sep 17, 2013

Dads: “Pilot”

By Josh Oakley

Seth Green has defended Dads, saying that the sitcom disparages the white men at its center just as much as the “others” that are mocked throughout the pilot episode. He’s wrong. This defense is far from new, and could be seen from miles away the second the show came under attack for being racist and sexist. Here’s why Green is wrong, and why that line of thought is so utterly, bombastically misguided that anyone who truly believes it must have a current deficit of faculties.

The main reason that the “we’re mocking ourselves too” argument crumbles upon inspection is that the white man (which, I should clarify, I am one of) has taken it upon himself to decide that this is how the game will be played. It’s like beating up a kid at school then punching yourself in the face and saying “no problems here!”. You still beat up a kid for no reason, without their permission. This isn’t to say that touchy subject matters can’t be discussed by white men (even though so many comedians have come out of the woodwork these past few years claiming their right to do whatever they please, damn the consequences such as rape culture flourishing. But I digress). Rather, the point is that you cannot, in that decision, make a unilateral ruling and be ASTOUNDED when backlash occurs. It’s a stupid response, it’s immature, and it shows a complete lack of understanding privilege. Again, make racy jokes. But, for god’s sake, do something with them. Make a point, have a perspective, instill some sort of purpose behind the joke beyond “this is racist”. The foundation upon which Seth Green has built his claim is reckless and harmful, because it removes blame from any piece of “art” (Dads is not art) with a swipe of the hand.

Another issue with Green’s response is that the jokes aimed at, say, Asians, are jokes about Asians, whereas the jokes concerning the white men have nothing to do with their whiteness or their gender. This is a huge difference, and it chokes Green’s statement completely. Yes, the older white men are racist, but that’s ageism if anything. Sure, that can be tied to their race as well, but their behaviors, and the jokes aimed at them, are not dependant on stereotypes in the ways that Brenda Song* dressing up as Sailor Moon is. What I take issue with here is the fact that the white men are allowed to be people (however poorly written), and the “others” are shuffled off as props. If the creators of Dads truly mean for the main characters to be faulty human beings, they at least allow them the position of being something more than. Song, on the other hand, is relegated to a handful of lines, each one dealing with stereotypes that aren’t even correct (as others have pointed out, Song is Vietnamese and Thai, her character dresses up as a Japanese character to seduce Chinese businessmen. Don’t expect Dads to bring this up as a thing that concerns them in the slightest). It would be one thing if the show concerned a group of friends with various races, genders and sexualities, and utilized this type of humor. But the point-of-view of Dads is male and white, and it does nothing to attempt to expand that horizon.

In that same comment that Green gave, he compared Dads to All in the Family. On quality alone, the comparison is obviously ludicrous, but he misses the larger point. All in the Family was about something, and featured discussions of authentic matters. Yes, that patriarch was a blow-hard and the patriarchs here are blow-hards, but not every asshole is created equal. Dads offers no perspective on matters of race or gender. It merely features old people saying very racist things and younger people doing very racist things. It doesn't offer comment, which is crucial in all art, especially when one seeks to motivate change. It's far easier to say something when you bother saying anything at all.

Grade: F

*I won’t even get started on how depressing it is that Song is stranded in maybe the most thankless role on television. Then again, even The Social Network couldn’t really figure out what to do with her, that film’s only real failing. She’s tremendously talented, and deserves to be recognized as such, so let’s get this piece of junk show off the air as soon as possible.

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