Hipsters are so hip, but apparently they are not too hip for racism.
How else can anyone explain the blatant racial slur on the May 25 episode of
“Maron” on IFC, the Independent Film Channel?
Just so you don’t think I’m some cranky PC pundit out to get your favorite
low-rated cable show, let’s make sure our racism barometers are set
Since transgressions against African Americans continue to be the racism gold
standard in the United States, we must establish our baseline:
If someone called a black person “Watermelon,” as in “Hey, Watermelon,” would
you laugh? Or would you say, “That’s racist?” (I hope you said the latter, even
if you might have initially tittered with guilt.)
If you laughed at that, then what about Sergio Garcia’s recent comments about
spending time with Tiger Woods during the U.S. Open and serving fried chicken?
You get why that’s racist, right?
So how about this: If I called you a ramen noodle-brained geek with an egg roll
for a penis, would you take offense by my mixed menu of slurs?
Now that we’re properly calibrated, on to the question at hand: What if someone
called a Filipino woman simply by the word “Pineapple”?
No name, just “Pineapple,” as in “Oh, hi Pineapple!”
That’s the level of wit we have on display in “Maron.”
It’s too bad IFC doesn’t stand for “Independent Filipino Channel.” Then there
may have been enough Filipinos on staff to let producers know just how offensive
they were being.
But this is the network whose slogan is “always on, slightly off,” and when it
comes to this pineapple episode, IFC is way, way off.
For those who might think “Maron” is a misspelled Filipino word, it is, in fact,
an independent sitcom based on the life of “liberal” comedian Marc Maron.
Maron (the person who is not in quotes vs. the show which is) does an
outrageously successful podcast on the web called ” WTF,” one to which I listen
and even subscribe.
Maron mostly interviews comedians, and it is one of the highest rated podcasts
on the web (based on downloads). Smart, funny, at times insightful. One of the
interviews is with the Canadian Indian comic Russell Peters, the current
grandmaster of ethnic humor.
Maron’s sitcom is another matter.
It’s based on a “character,” so I gave it a lot of leeway. Some racist
characters are just in the comedic tradition of Archie Bunker, right? Maybe “All
in the Family” characters were racist in order to instruct, but not “Maron.”
I was actually prepared for the show to have a lot of sex, because it is, after
all, on cable, where people have sex for no good reason except that they can.
Sure, sex is fine. But sexist humor, no.
For all the nudity, say, in a show like “Girls,” I never come away thinking
about what a sexist half-hour I just witnessed. With “Maron,” I do. Given the
general raunchy tone of stand-up comedy and the fact that the show is primarily
about the sex life/non-sex life of Maron, I should expect it. I guess I wanted
something more from a comic set-up, where Maron picks a dominatrix over the
“nice girl.” I mean, besides the fact Maron eventually gets to sleep with both
of them–but not together. (It is his show.)
An episode about a dominatrix? I suppose the creative powers at “Maron” thought
it would be OK to toss in a little racism, just to take the edge off things.
But it’s not OK.
When the Filipino female character first appears, she comes out of a bathroom in
a trailer. Her ethnicity is not readily apparent, and she’s only described by
Judd Hirsch, who plays Maron’s father, as “the Pineapple.”
That’s it. She doesn’t speak, no name, and is treated like an ottoman. The
Pineapple’s ethnicity is revealed when Hirsch urges Maron to try some of her
Hirsch: Sinagang soup, it’s sour pork soup, the Pineapple made it for me.
Pork soup? For a Jewish man like Maron, sure. He tries it and gags.
Maron: Wow, that is horrible.
Hirsch: So it’s not just me, wait…Well, it’s Philippine anyway. What is
that, some kind of Chinese-Mexican hybrid, right?
Maron: I don’t know…
If you’re Filipino, this ignorant humor comes at your expense.
OK, let’s try a little substitution.
I’d be labeled racist if I refused to call a Jewish woman by her proper name
(whether I was shtupping her or not) and simply called her some food term.
How about “Kreplach?”
Or in honor of our South Asian New Yorker National Spelling Bee Champ,
“Knaidel.” Then I could make a joke: I could canoodle with Knaidel.
Or what about the more common and the appropriately shaped bagel? With my
I think the B’nai B’rith bridge clubs around the nation would be up in arms. And
the “liberal” Maron might even say, “WTF?”
But Filipinos? What are they? Pineapples? Pork soup eating sina-GANGers?
The double standard lives on.
As far as indie sitcoms go, I love the auteur quality of “Louie.” And I was
really looking forward to “Maron.” Some have even called it one of the “best
shows on TV.” Really?
If the golf world can still be alarmed by Sergio inviting Tiger for fried
chicken, I can get upset about a brown Filipino sister portrayed as a passive,
religious sex object for laughs being called “The Pineapple” and a hybrid
Somehow I expected more from “Maron” and was surprised he was quick to sell out
Filipinos for laughs. But after that episode, and in honor of the upcoming
Filipino Independence Day, I’m declaring my independence from that sort of
colonial b.s. humor. Hipster sexism is still sexism. And the racism is
“Maron” is fine, as long as the joke’s on the emotionally-crippled Maron and
white guys being beaten into submission.
No need to drag fruit and Filipinos into that mix.