Friday, October 12, 2007

Desperate Housewives: Desperate for Ratings?

Who would have thought that feminism and post-modernist consumerism would result in a very, very ugly dialectic? Is Desperate Housewives “Girl Power” gone wrong?


By: Vanessa Uy


Hi, my name is Vanessa and I never watched a full episode of Desperate Housewives in my entire life, though I’ve watched enough World War II movies that made me extra sensitive to racial epithets. If I had to choose between watching a season of Desperate Housewives and an instructional video from Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) on how to treat assault rifle trauma, I’d choose the later. Besides Teri Hatcher / Susan Meyer may have a low opinion on non-Hollywood doctors like MSF or Filipino medical personnel for that matter.

The “Desperate Housewives” row over Filipino doctors is about the September 30, 2007 episode of the show. In this particular show is a scene were Teri Hatcher’s character – Susan Meyer – was being confronted by a doctor with the information that she may be experiencing menopause. During the conversation, Susan Meyer (Teri Hatcher’s character) cut the doctor short and this is when she uttered the racial slur. This is the excerpt.

Dr. Mayfair: “I know for a lot of women, the word “menopause” has negative connotations. The heart aging, brittle bones, loss of sexual desire…”

Susan Meyer: “Before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? ‘cause I would like to make sure that they’re not from some “med school” in the Philippines.”

To me, this qualifies as an attack on us Filipinos. The writing staff of Desperate Housewives intentions might just be for the purpose of entertainment but we Filipinos, say that this is really underhanded. We have been offended – if not ridiculed by the said statements.

As "patriotic" Americans, I can assume that the writing staff of Desperate Housewives that their society doesn’t tolerate racial slurs -no matter how benign- and I experienced this first hand. Back in February 2001, while vacationing with my relatives in Wisconsin. I almost got into a fight with a group of African–Americans because I was telling a funny anecdote to my cousin – in a Bavarian dialect – in which a group of African–Americans misinterpreted as a racial slur directed at them. Plus I’m a pale skinned green- eyed redhead (Uzbek-German ancestry) didn’t help matters either. Fortunately, the group understood my pleas in explaining my esoteric language use and the tense situation was peacefully resolved. Understandable since obscure Bavarian dialects is not a major part of the American high school curricula.

Now, for the sake of justice, it’s my time to cast a critical eye on the TV series “Desperate Housewives”. I always view any-town-USA-gated-communities with disdain even if I’m presently residing in one. These “communities” represent the dark side of Capitalist Consumerism (or the "freedoms" of a post-modernist society). These are probably the kind of communities where the malfeasant personnel of the private security contractor “Blackwater” grew up. I think the writing staff of Desperate Housewives should undergo ethnic or cultural sensitivity training by sentencing them to do community service in San Francisco’s Castro Street district, or doing volunteer work in a Turkish-Armenian support group.

1 comment:

Ferdinand said...

Most Americans are usually very sensitive to racial and ethnic slurs. The latest incidence of this is when Halle Berry appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Halle Berry was repremanded on her comment about Jewish women's "less than aesthetically perfect part of their facial anatomy". I'm even offended by her "lookist" remark on this occation.