'Dads' TV Show Controversy: Is This the Last Straw For Racial Stereotypes On TV?


Considerable criticism has rained down on the producers of the new TV show Dads — Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild — for filling the show with racist and sexual stereotypes that may offend Asians. Brenda Song’s syndicated portrayal as a “sexy Asian schoolgirl” and Martin Mull’s reference to Asians as “Orientals” disturbed the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), resulting in a confrontation.

Guy Aoki, the founding president of MANAA, issued a letter and requested that the producers reshoot the offensive scenes before the sitcom’s debut. These scenes should not be surprising to anyone familiar with MacFarlane's work, since Family Guy, a sitcom oozing with racial and sexual innuendos, is his most prized creation and Sulkin contributed much material to the show. And while MacFarlane and Sulkin achieved much success with Family Guy, their careers may decline slightly with the pilot episode of Dads. I understand that MANAA finds the “sexy Asian schoolgirl” and use of “Orientals” entirely offensive, but MacFarlane and Sulkin do not want their comedic freedom restricted. The only plausible solution is collaboration between MANAA and the FOX executives, in which both associations brainstorm on editing scenes and inserting jokes. Thus, the former will be content with the sitcom and its material while the latter does not feel it's being subjected to censorship.

MacFarlane and Sulkin are known for their explicit sense of humor, incorporating serious topics like racism, sexism and natural or world crises. Although this demonstrates their abilities of adaptation and improvisation, their witty repertoire occasionally exceeds the boundaries of discretion and sensitivity. Although some material from Family Guy is hilarious, the show can also be ridiculous and offensive. If FOX and the producers want Dads to be a hit comedy, then they should take reactions like MANAA's into consideration.

“FOX has an opportunity to fix fatal flaws in the pilot and to improve the show’s chances for success when it premieres next month. We are asking you to reshoot the inappropriate scenes of the pilot,” said Aoki. “Considering the consistent feedback from our community and television critics in general — and the creators saying they hadn’t properly defined their characters nor gotten used to their actors when they shot that first episode — this sounds like a no-brainer.”

The producers may not take this advice to heart, however, since they're waiting for more feedback from their audience and fans. “We’re trying to learn things that do land and the things don’t change in upcoming shows,” said Mike Scully, an executive producer for The Simpsons. “We don’t want this to be the racial-insult comedy show. It’s a comedy about fathers and sons and you want to strike that relatable thing.”

Thus, a collaboration between MANAA and FOX executives or the creators would be the best solution because they could reach a mutual consensus in which everyone is pleased with the pilot episode of Dads. MacFarlane, Sulkin, and Wild should not suffer censorship because their ideas and creativity are broadcast on national television, and members of their audience are not offended by any racial or sexual stereotypes. If they're going to make changes to their show, they should have a hand in deciding what those changes are.