[NOTE: Light Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt spoilers ahead! If you haven’t finished the series yet, you’ve been warned.]
To Creators of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:
After watching both seasons of your show I have one question: why must you sully an otherwise effervescent, delightful, and sharply funny show with racist nonsense? Is it too much of a burden to write hysterical dialogue that doesn’t throw cheap, dated shots at people of color? Much has been written about issues including the odd treatment of the show’s only Asian lead and the outrageous Native American subplot. Jane Krakowski as the daughter of these two? Really??
And after all these gaffs, season 2 chooses to introduce us to Titus’ new one-act-play about inner geisha, Murasaki. Seriously. I mean, ok, if anyone had an inner geisha it would be him, but what a downright disrespectful way to negate real concerns about yellow-face in Hollywood. A recent Bustle article posits that the episode is itself a petty response to the backlash against the series’ racial jokes. While Titus’ play is called out online for cultural appropriation and mockery, the offended parties are portrayed as buffoons:
Here’s where Fey and co-creator Robert Carlock could be telling us how they really feel about social justice bloggers. The forum goes by the name Respectful Asian Portrayals in Entertainment (spell that acronym out for yourself), and its members spout phrases like, “I don’t wanna hear the end of anything anyone has to say!” And they demand that the geisha should have been “a successful business woman, or a college professor, or a stay-at-home dad.”
And to add insult to injury, a lot of the racial humor is not even funny, specific, or particularly creative. All of this tomfoolery has me quoting Titus himself:
What makes these oversights all the more baffling is the nuanced way Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt treats the presumed sexual violence of the bunker. It finds humor in Kimmy’s decidedly unfunny trauma — without making her the butt of the joke. Talk about sophisticated writing about an extremely sensitive subject. In season 2, we peel back more layers of Kimmy’s horrific past when she is triggered by people sneaking up behind her, or smacks Dong in the head with a telephone when they kiss. It’s a far cry from the broad strokes used to portray many of the non-white people on the show. Almost as if Hollywood views minorities as somehow less important, less complex, less human.
Side note, the episode where Titus is treated better as a werewolf than a black man is hilariously on-point. And really, nearly everything Mr. Burgess has gifted us with is wonderful, including instant classic “Peeno Noir.”
So what could you do differently in the future, dear creators? For one, maybe hire more PoC writers. And perhaps drop the “secret Indian” subplot altogether. Just a thought.
Love and theatre (and a healthy dose of side-eye),