Far from classy: “Anchorman 2” didn’t need racist joke against Filipinos
I am not immune. The holidays mean movies, and I thought I’d begin the season by indulging in the massive
promotional juggernaut that is Anchorman 2.
I expected it to be silly and stupid. But racist too? That caught me by
surprise. And it didn’t make me go har-har-har.
We all know silly and stupid can be funny, and who takes that seriously? I
don’t. In fact, I found myself nodding my head as I listened to one of the
movie’s co-stars, Steve Carell, the maybe dead weatherman, plugging the film on
Howard Stern the other day, dismissing it all. “All idiots doing stupid and dumb
things,” said Carell.
Yeah, yeah, sure.
But that doesn’t give the producers license to be racist.
True, racism is a form of ignorance. And that’s different from the kind of
put-on silliness and stupidity that is the bread and butter of Anchorman 2.
Except in this one instance.
Racism, after all, isn’t a form of comedy. Otherwise the KKK would be right up
there with the Keystone Cops.
For starters, “just joking” isn’t a good enough defense anymore. Nor is saying
“we’re just being dumb and stupid.”
Mind you, I didn’t go to the movie on a press comp. I paid my hard-earned cash,
went willingly to the movie, and sat through all of it (nearly two hours).
Indeed, as a former local TV anchorman in Washington, D.C. in the 90’s, who
knows all about banter and hairstyles, pancake make-up, and sitting on phone
books to achieve “elevation,” I was prepared for it all.
I even relished how the “team” celebrated their success by getting perms!
But in the first 15 minutes, there was one jab that crossed the line.
And it was a pure throwaway. Ron Burgundy is driving his van and says: “Only
Olympic sport Filipinos are good at is eating cats and dogs.”
I was so irate by the line that I tried desperately to find a pen and scribble
in the dark; I believe that’s the line verbatim.
As a Filipino American, my sensitivity levels on jokes about Filipinos are
pretty high. I just had an exchange with a relative in Tacloban in the
Philippines about how people there didn’t have enough to eat. And how cemetaries
were uprooted and dogs were chewing on the remains. The dogs weren’t being eaten
by the starving typhoon victims.
Of course, the movie was made before the typhoon occurred. But did they really
need that line?
There are enough genuinely stupid race-free laughs in the movie; it wasn’t
necessary to update the already lame stereotype of Filipino dog eaters.
It’s certainly one thing for a Filipino to joke about it. But to recycle it in a
movie for a general audience is just plain racist, no matter how they update it
by adding cats to the menu.
Oh, and they made it an Olympic sport too. The Winter Games? So that would mean
dog and cat, flash frozen, not fresh?
For those who think I’m being too sensitive, how would you like it if the only
time you hear your ethnicity mentioned in pop culture is as a punch line?
Bad enough to be generally excluded from mainstream pop culture.
The Filipino joke wasn’t the only ethnic joke in the movie. Burgundy (Will
Ferrell) jokes about being Mexican a few times. But there, the joke’s on him.
There was another joke about the news staff proposing a Chinese story. Burgundy
hums a typical Asian ditty that’s usually accompanied by a gong, and then
rejects the story. There again, Burgundy is the target. Perfect for humor of the
But the Filipino dog-eating joke? When you laugh, you’re not laughing at
Burgundy. The target is Filipinos.
Blacks, at least, were real participants in the movie. They were given their own
lines to expose the stupidity of the Burgundian ebonics, the soul brother jive
Burgundy brings to the dinner table of his African American girlfriend.
The interracial love between Ron and the black news exec is actually kind of
funny. When you make love and don’t see fireworks, but instead see images of
Jackie Robinson and Gary Coleman and the cast of Diff’rent Strokes, well, I
admit that’s funny.
Once again, blacks were in on that joke, though even this area may make some
people, especially whites like actual anchorwoman Megyn Kelly, a bit
After all, she still thinks Santa, Jesus, and news execs are all whites.
The Filipino joke? It would have been nice to have a Filipino guy in a cameo to
let Ron know it wasn’t cool. And coming from San Diego, known for a large
Filipino American community in National City, the real fake Ron Burgundy should
have known better.
I stayed to the end, and even liked the surprise finish. Not the phony battle
royal of news teams, but the movie’s sendup of bogus news, such as car chases
and corporate conflicts.
The movie needed more of that–satire that really hits the mark. Instead, it
relies too much on the silly and stupid, making for fewer hits, more misses, and
that racist clunker about Filipinos.
Now, I’m not offended to the point of boycotting the whole thing. But on the
Howard Stern show, Carell said if the movie made money (and really, is there any
doubt of that?), the cast and crew would all get together and have a big party
concert with Seals and Croft or Hall and Oates. (The movie does use music to
transport people back in time).
I’d suggest they do one more thing. Make a donation to one of the charities,
like Catholic Relief Services, that is continuing to help the victims of Typhoon
Haiyan in the Central Philippines.
It would be a perfect Ron Burgundy moment, live from Tacloban, or in the studio
with a green screen and a big cardboard check. Such a small penance for a
dog-eating transgression. And it fits right in with the filmmakers’ penchant for
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.