Fox has responded to a complaint about its upcoming sitcom “Dads,” saying that it understands the concerns of the Asian American community and wants to establish a dialogue, but stopping short of saying it would reshoot the scenes in question.
Earlier this month, Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) objected to scenes in which series regular Brenda Song, who plays an assistant to two young white male executives, is asked to put on a skimpy “Asian schoolgirl” outfit to impress a group of Chinese businessmen. (There are also jokes about one of the businessmen being poorly endowed.)
A number of TV critics from the mainstream media also found the depiction to be racist and sexist.
After attending a screening of the pilot episode, Guy Aoki, founding president of MANAA, wrote to Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly and Chief Operating Officer Joe Earley, saying that the portrayal was demeaning and asking that the scenes be reshot.
In a letter received on Monday, Reilly and Earley wrote, in part:
“Your collective perspective on our programming is always important to us, especially given our ongoing efforts to reflect diverse characters and stories on our air. As was mentioned at the screening event, what you viewed is just the pilot, and pilots are rarely perfect. Some of the points you’ve noted will be addressed as our series progress this season, but in the meantime, we would like to try to clarify a few matters of concern …
“In the case of ‘Dads,’ we understand your concerns, as do the producers directly, as the result of our screening event. This is a show that will be evocative and will poke fun at stereotypes and bigotries – sometimes through over-the-top, ridiculous situations.
“The series is based heavily on the executive producers’ own lives, and the relationships between the fathers and sons on ‘Dads’ will continue to be the main driver of the show’s comedic sensibility. Everyone involved with ‘Dads’ is striving to create a series with humor that works on multiple levels and ‘earns’ its audaciousness.
“That said, we do recognize comedy is subjective, and we may not be able to please everyone, all the time. You were clear that you don’t feel the need to give the show time to develop, based on your experience with another show on another network, but we will continue to ask you to do just that.
“You will see that Brenda Song’s character is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand on the guys.
“Again, we really appreciate your input and thank you for continuing the open dialogue that our organizations have long shared. Your candor and insight truly demonstrate the strength of our partnership, and while we may not always agree on every point, we’re confident that these discussions will continue to bear fruit.”
In his reply, Aoki wrote, “Since it’s clear you do not intend to reshoot any scenes in the pilot of ‘Dads’ that would make it better and less racially and sexually offensive to Asian Americans, we are asking to view or receive advance copies of the succeeding episodes you have already shot in order to get a sense of how Brenda Song’s character will develop as well as the extent of the racial humor against Asian Americans.
“(As we mentioned, CBS told us Han Lee’s character in ‘2 Broke Girls’ would be seen as smart and that he would be respected, but that has never happened).
“We too appreciate the dialogue we have had with Fox since 2000 on these and many other programming issues and look forward to continuing to work with you to encourage the development of shows that are more reflective of this diverse country.”