Philippines

October 7, 2007

Hollywood steps in it again, or did they?

ABC Studios is taking heat for a comment made by one of the characters in it’s popular “Desperate Housewives” series. The controversial scene occurred when character “Susan” – played by actress Teri Hatcher, tells her doctor: “OK, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? Because I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines.” Filipinos take pride in the quality of their medical professional, so this caused quite a stir. As reported in Global Nation and the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

Many Filipino-Americans found the apology issued by ABC Studios and the show’s producers insufficient. A broad alliance of Filipino-American groups said it wanted the TV network to take concrete steps to correct its mistake, such as holding cultural sensitivity and diversity awareness training for its management and staff. Rico Foz, executive vice president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said the group was demanding that the ABC television network immediately edit out the controversial scene… The remarks sparked protests from the Philippine Congress and presidential palace and prompted a letter to the show’s producers from the Philippine consulate in Los Angeles.

State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) also jumped on the opportunity to make some political hay out of the situation and posted this statement on his website:

As a senator who represents the largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines, I am appalled that the producers and writers at ABC found this type of humor acceptable, This desperate attempt at humor is offensive and has no place in our community. Filipinos, including those trained outside of the United States, have made invaluable impacts on the medical field, and should be valued, not disparaged.

According to Global Nation, Senator Yee has urged the television network that produced the show to issue a public apology its next broadcast in addition to the apology it has already issued.

Not so fast Senator, let’s think this one through. What if the studio was purposely showing the shallowness of this character- which was almost certainly their intent. What if the sentiment that “Susan” expressed also sometimes expressed in the real world- however ill informed and uneducated that might be? Do we really want our entertainment in the future to be the most neutral, politically correct material that writers can create?

This incident came to light just days after Paramount was forced to delay the release of Kite Runner- but that was involving a rape scene that could have exploded ethnic violence. This is just a scene about a mildly bigoted airhead in a nighttime soap opera. It doesn’t rise to the level of where any kind of self censorship should be considered. It could even be argued that ABC Studio’s gave the Philippines medical industry and professionals a chance to assert themselves.

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