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With “February sweeps” right around the corner–one of the “sweeps months” when networks pull out all the stops to juke ratings so that, based on those increased viewership numbers, they can set ad prices for the rest of the year–I wanted to talk about the recent dustup over CBS’ new hit sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which will resume airing new episodes next week.
A few weeks ago at the Television Critics Association’s (TCA) Winter Press Tour, 2 Broke Girls‘ co-creator Michael Patrick King, who’s best known for his work on Sex and the City, became defensive over reporters’ questions concerning the broke-ass racial and ethnic stereotypes on the show.
If you haven’t seen the show, the stereotypes in question involve the show’s secondary characters who work at the same diner as the two broke girls. There’s Oleg, the pervy Ukrainian cook; Earl, the black, jive-talking cashier; and Han Lee, the diner owner, a Korean immigrant who speaks in heavily-accented Engrish and is frequently the butt of jokes because of his “foreign-ness.” Andrew Ti, the razor-sharp mind behind Yo, Is This Racist?, describes Han in a Grantland post as a “tiny, greedy, sexless man-child.” Most of the questions that appeared to anger King at the TCA event concerned the particularly offensive portrayal of Han Lee.
Filed under: 2 Broke Girls, 2 Broke Girls CBS, Asian Americans on TV, Beth Behrs, CBS, Ethnic Stereotypes, GTFOOHWTBS, Han Bryce Lee, Han Lee, Hit Shows, If Everyone's Telling You Something's Racist It Probably Is, Immigrant Portrayals, Kat Dennings, Long Duk Dong, Matthew Moy, Michael Patrick King, Others Otherizing the Others, Racial Stereotypes, Racist Stereotypes, Sex and The City, Sitcoms, This is Bullshit, Tone Deafness
I watched the pilot episode of 2 Broke Girls this week, even though multi-camera sitcoms really aren’t my thing. (Give me one hour dramas with teens or monsters or, even better, teens and monsters, any night of the week.) The CBS sitcom is about two women who form an unlikely friendship waitressing together at a greasy spoon in a not-cool neighborhood in Brooklyn.
And I liked it. Mostly. Beth Behrs is appealing as Caroline, the suddenly broke daughter of a disgraced Madoff-like figure, and Kat Dennings, who plays snarky Max, is infinitely watchable.
The same can’t be said for the show’s other characters, who are little more than a collection of broad, hacky, outmoded–even for network television–stereotypes, like Oleg, the pervy
Russian Ukrainian cook who hits on the girls all day long, or Earl, the old, black wisecracking cashier who appears to be bound to his chair in the corner, or, worst of all, Han “Bryce” Lee, the Korean immigrant owner of the diner.
Han, who changes his name to “Bryce,” so that, as Dennings’ Max puts it, “people [can] take him even less seriously” than they already do, is a clueless, little man who spreaks Engrish and has no grasp of American culture. In an earlier draft of the pilot, he was actually named “Rice Lee,” so I guess that’s progress?
No. Not really.
It being 2011 and all, shouldn’t “ethnic” characters be more by now than just the butt of jokes made by pretty girls?
Filed under: 2 Broke Girls, 2 Broke Girls CBS, Beth Behrs, Bryce Lee, Butt of Jokes, CBS, Do Better, Engrish Is Played, Ethnic Stereotypes, Funny Girls, Hacky Writing, Han Lee, Kat Dennings, Mr. Yunioshi, Network Television, Sitcoms, TV Stereotypes