Despite the requests of an Asian American media watchdog group—plus bad press from all corners—Fox has no plans to replace offensive scenes in the pilot of the Seth MacFarlane-produced fall sitcom Dads.
The Hollywood Reporter reports today that Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly and COO Joe Earley have responded to complaints issued by the Media Action Network for Asian Americans' Guy Aoki about racist stereotypes in the show. In their letter, Reilly and Earley make no mention of reshoots and ask Aoki, whose organization contacted the network last week, to give the show a chance to develop, and explaining that actress Brenda Song's character—an Asian-American woman working at a video game company—"is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand on the guys." (In the series pilot, the show's leads have Song's character dress up like a sexy school girl and giggle to woo Chinese investors.)
Other scenes in the pilot for the show, which centers on the relationship between two video game developers (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) and their socially awkward dads, contain offenses including a character's use of the word "Oriental" and a series of jokes about the size of a Chinese man's penis. In their letter, Reilly and Earley write that Dads "...is a show that will be evocative and will poke fun at stereotypes and bigotries – sometimes through over-the-top, ridiculous situations, adding that "...everyone involved with 'Dads' is striving to create a series with humor that works on multiple levels and 'earns' its audaciousness." (And, of course, earns money: The CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which was also slammed for its racist portrayal of Han Lee, a Korean-born owner of a Brooklyn diner, ended up being a ratings success for the network.)
Some people just aren't buying these sorts of defenses of the show or its humor. As Melissa Maerz explained in an essay for Entertainment Weekly, the problem with the pilot is that it's not actually poking fun at stereotypes, it's asking the audience to laugh with and embrace them. Even Song's character doesn't seem to care about the way she is dehumanized. "This kind of silent compliance might be the most dangerous part of Dads," Maerz writes. "It’s not just that racist jokes go totally unchecked, it’s that the people who are the butt of those jokes end up playing along, just to show everyone that it’s okay." The show also, as other critics have pointed out, just isn't funny.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that MANAA's Guy Aoki has also asked Fox to see upcoming episodes "to get a sense of how Brenda Song’s character will develop as well as the extent of the racial humor against Asian Americans." Song, for her part, defended her role at the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month. "I joke around all the time, ‘I’m Asian, I’m really good at math," she said, according to Entertainment Weekly. "I know so many people who joke about themselves, we’re just doing it on TV. For me for my generation, I grew up watching The Family Guy and The Simpsons …I get to do what I’ve been dreaming about since I was 7 years old. I can’t complain."