Thursday, December 6, 2012

Suburgatory's Horrifying Christmas

I've been catching up on Suburgatory recently, and I like it quite a lot in general, but I thought last night's Christmas episode was almost a total misfire. The whole thing was tonally weird and felt like some sort of bizarre fever dream, from Ryan's freak-out to Dalia's music video.

But it was the Carmen plotline that made me go from "bemused and perplexed" to "staring at my screen in horror." They wrapped up a person and gave her as a gift. AFFLUENT WHITE PEOPLE LITERALLY WRAPPED UP A LATINA DOMESTIC WORKER AND GAVE HER AS A GIFT. I mean, I know they made clear that where she worked was her choice, but I still cannot get past the optics of it. And her choice was not exactly good: Did she want to work for the mean racist or the clueless racist who claimed to love her?

Now, the show has done similar things in the past in order to skewer the characters' oblivious white privilege, but when they've worked, it's because Tessa or George or Lisa or SOMEONE objects or at least looks like they're aware of how completely awful the other characters are being. But in this case, George was an active participant and enabler - GEORGE! - and no one else was there to be horrified. I'd like to give the writers the benefit of the doubt here, because they have made this sort of device work in the past, but whatever self-awareness presumably existed in the framing of this story did not come across in the episode itself at all.

I'm certainly not writing off the show as hopelessly racist or anything; every show has its missteps. But this episode did not leave me with warm fuzzy Christmas feelings toward the Chatswin crew.

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