2 Broke Girls Showrunner Doubles Down on Racist Humor

The CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls has earned a reputation for racist jokes (also for unfunny jokes). You'd like to think that showrunner Michael Patrick King was working on fixing these problems instead of sticking to—and defending—his racist joke guns. Think again.

At the Television Critics Association winter press tour yesterday, King reportedly defended the ethnic and racial stereotypes of 2 Broke Girls, calling them "big, bold jokes." From ThinkProgress:

Michael Patrick King doubled down his defense of the rampant racial and ethnic stereotypes in the show, suggesting that they would not change even in response to notes from the network that suggested 'dimensionalizing' the non-white characters in the supporting cast.

Not only that, King dug his heels in and defended his position at the press tour, and it sounds like things got unbearable awkward and awful (awkful?). You can read the A.V. Club's full report here but highlights include King uttering the phrases "I think our show is a big, ballsy comedy, but it has a bigger heart than it has balls" (on balls), "I like the fact that in the last three episodes we haven't made an Asian character, we've only made short jokes" (on the character of Han, because short jokes have nothing to do with Asian jokes), and "I'm gay! I'm putting in gay stereotypes every week! I don't find it offensive, any of this. I find it comic to take everybody down, which is what we are doing" (on how it's fine to be racist if you're gay). King also said he is "thrilled with everything [they]'re doing" on the show, called the 2 Broke Girls "classy dirty," and then, in a bizarre turn, mocked a TV critic for being Irish in order to drive home his points about ethnic stereotypes being comedy gold. The joke didn't go over well, just like the racist jokes on 2 Broke Girls don't go over well. Because racist humor is lazy, offensive, and, well, racist.

Han, the Asian owner of the diner where the 2 Broke Girls work, talks to them while they sit in a booth
It's OK, no one has ever made these edgy jokes about Asians being short before!

It's not as if people who write broad comedy based on stale stereotypes don't realize that they're being racist, but King's defending himself and refusing to change—even when the network itself is asking for more (and they're usually the last ones to complain about shitty jokes)—takes it to the next level. It's one thing to make a few (OK, 13 episodes' worth of) missteps and correct them when you receive feedback that your work is offensive, but it's quite another to say that you know your work is offensive but you don't care because it's "ballsy." Anyone can make a mistake, but it takes a special kind of asshole to not only defend his mistakes, but back them up with an Irish joke and a promise more where those came from. (For more on this special kind of asshole, see Ryan Murphy, who refused an invitation to attend a roundtable discussion about depictions of disability in pop culture.)

2 Broke Girls is, inexplicably, this season's breakaway hit, and as long as that's the case I doubt we'll see King changing his equal-opportunity-racism-is-fine-now tune. Here's hoping that his blatant, stubborn bigotry leads to the lower ratings this show—and any show that bases its humor in stereotypes and jackassery—deserves.

Further reading:

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Comments

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Gah, I love Kat Dennings too

Gah, I love Kat Dennings too -- too bad this show can't be a better vehicle for her

Sociology should be compulsory

This is why I think sociology should be compulsory- starting in middle school! The "equal opportunity offender" excuse is unacceptable. Stereotypes affect minorities in a much more real way than they do dominant groups. Just because a writer doesn't dislike Asian people any more than s/he dislikes White people doesn't mean the jokes about Asian people aren't damaging. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what effect their work has; a fundamental misunderstanding of sociology and the nature of racism/sexism etc.

Praying for Writer's Block

I agree that sociology should be compulsory. These are the subjects that get ridiculed and yet they are probably the most important---she says with a degree in American Studies--and the most ignored in society and therefore television writing! Many writers seem to bandy about the same racist/sexist/homophobic stereotypes and are then rewarded for their "edgyness".

I wonder if most television writers are over compensating for their "nerdy" , ivy league educations and book wormy reputations by employing adolescent humor and out-moded attitudes in their writing. Perhaps they are enjoying vendettas against professors who dared to try and make them think beyond their own privileged status and chastized them for their lack of empathy toward oppressed groups.

If it's true that they aren't "really" as racist as we think they are, maybe a good creative writing refresher course is needed to keep their minds from falling back on bad habits.

Or maybe they're just racists who have a national weekly forum in which to propagate their point of view and they relish the advantage.

I love the show but...

It's a shame because I happen to find the relation between Max and Caroline very touching, and I guess I can say it's the first time I see girls I can relate to on a sitcom. Max is sassy and brutally honest, and Caroline is intelligent and capable, and together they have the best punchlines. Both of them have a lot of spirit and don't rely to men, and aren't in search of "prince charming". They just want to earn money for their cupcake business.

However, the rape jokes and racist jokes on the show are not even funny. They make me unconfortable. I am really surprised by how MPK aren't assuming these poor choices. Come on man, do you really think we watch your show for these lame-ass jokes ?

Thanks and one thing...

Thanks for your comment, Babymelaw!

Just to let you know, we consider lame to be an ableist term and we don't use it on the Bitch blogs (more info here: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-transcontinental-disability-choir-what...).

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Racism and Rape No Laughing Matter

I also like the show. It's so rare to see representations of women who are smart, funny, strong...and have blatant feminist sensibilities such as the episode about the price of tampons! Still I agree that the racist material and clownish characters aren't only offensive but are totally out of place given the other social justice themes that come up in the show.

The rape jokes are definitely part of a larger problem which permeates television, films, and the internet such as the obsession with porn culture that most writer's seem to be having. Female characters, even our two pithy heroines, are never given the opportunity to rail against sexual assault as a systemic problem or take issue with the horrors of sex trafficking. Taking these things seriously, would run counter to the porn industry's hold on the entertainment business.
It stands to reason that rape and other sex related violence must be played for laughs.

It enrages me to no end ...

That this show won the People's Choice Award last night for favorite "new" sitcom, beating-out the more deservables "New Girl" and most especially "Up All Night" (which I wanted badly to win).

Very troubling because the People's Choice Awards ARE a popularity contest that is now decided by online votes. Could it be that those obsessed with this terribly offensive program continuously stuffed the ballot box on it? Something's got to give, and I will be among those demanding for some sort of changes to these annual "shenanigans" that are becoming most about the imbeciles having a say that "stupidity triumphs everything." We are losing as a society because of our dangerously ignorant, xenophobic, dumbed-down culture. We cannot continue at this rate. I also declare "Peoples Choice Awards" voters douchebags, for not caring about what's genuinely funny on TV and believing that is is OK to be offensive to others, but not their self-absorbed selves. No situation comedy show on CBS is genuinely funny right now, just downright offensive.

PCA's don't actually care who

PCA's don't actually care who stuffed what ballot box- the Supernatural fans are furious because they managed to win Best Drama, but the cast wasn't even invited, nor was their acceptance speech put in the actual PCA show.

I also disagree on your opinion that New Girl is funny, so be careful in claiming that your opinion is what's "generally funny."

I haven't seen the show and

I haven't seen the show and don't really plan to. (No cable at the moment only netflix) But the racial jokes sound awful. From what I have heard about the show, it kind of reminds me of Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Yes the show features a single mother of two twin boys (she isn't the main character) All the characters of a different race are portrayed negatively. Mr. Mosby, and African American, is to be viewed as the villian (And I always find myself on his side when disciplining the twins) London is a very air headed rich Asian girl, Estaban is basically there to make fun of Latino cultures, Maddie is Irish and poor and we are meant to laugh at the fact that she is poor and has to work for her money. They did a time travel episode where the characters were put in the time of the founding of America, and lets say that it was a disastor.

Too Bad

I love Kat Dennings and really wanted to love this show. It has some good elements (Max and Caroline's relationship, the tampon war, cupcakes). I don't even mind the obvious "that's what she said" like, sex jokes, since it's unusual for women on TV to be so crass, but the unapologetic racism of the show is so awful. I keep waiting for it to get better, but it sounds like it won't be. Bummer.

The show is fine!

I find this show outrageously hilarious! As a society we are getting too strict on jokes in general. The show is not segregating any single race to make fun of it, but is more about generalisations. We should all learn to look at the funny side of things without having such firm social values...