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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Desperate Housewives' Desperate Joke

Written by Anthony
ABC, the network behind the comedy-drama (at least, it seems that way), Desperate Housewives made a terrible mistake for making another terrible joke that's neither funny nor informative.

The controversial scene on "Desperate Housewives" that sparked heavy protest from angry Filipinos, and Filipino-American's was the scene that featured Mayer, in which she visited the office of Dr. Adam Mayfair (played by Nathan Fillion). Mayfair hinted that Mayer might be experiencing signs of menopause and wanted her to take a blood test to be sure. Mayer's response was "OK, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? I just want to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines."

According to Philippine Consul General Mary Jo A. Bernardo-Aragon, the remarks served to create racial stereotypes, thereby tainting unnecessarily the excellent record of Filipino health care professionals all over the world.

In Manila, MalacaƱang also condemned the insulting line and ask the producers for an apology.

Aragon also said that Filipino health professionals are "highly regarded all over the world, as proven by the high demand for them in many countries, including the United States," "We believe that a popular series, such as 'Desperate Housewives,' need not resort to making such prejudicial statements in order to generate humor," she said.

Many enraged Filipino-Americans have circulated an on-line petition and posted blog entries demanding an apology from the producers of the show. They described Hatcher’s remarks as "derogatory," "discriminatory" and "hurtful."

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is also asking the producers for an apology for the racial comments and to register the country’s "vehement protest."

"I want to let them know that Filipino doctors are not desperate," Duque said in an interview.

Philippine Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that Filipino medical professionals had shown here and abroad their fine performance, as he noted the recent recognition given to Lily Lara as one of the top 10 nurses in the United States.

Reached for comment in Manila, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney on Wednesday, said "we all have great respect for Philippine health care and Philippine health care workers throughout the world, they are known for their dedication and compassion. They are much sought after."

But Kenney admitted that she only watched Philippine TV shows and not US shows. "You got much more information than I do... I haven’t heard the story."

For decades, the Philippines has been one of the main sources of foreign-trained health professionals in the United States -- a trend that is expected to continue as a severe shortage of nurses and other health workers grips the US health care system.

"The United States recognizes the academic standards of Philippine medical and nursing schools and, in general, does not require additional schooling in this country for Filipino health care professionals who wish to work here," Aragon said.

Take two, action!

Now, know that this is not the first time that "Desperate Housewives" has come under fire for perceived racism.

A New York Times article, published when the first season premiered in October 2004, said: "Television executives have giddily reverted to the sexism and racism that brought the humor police down on the networks. The backlash is most obvious on 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Boston Legal,' ABC's heralded new dramatic comedies."

The author, Alessandra Stanley, also said "Desperate Housewives" was entertaining, "but it turns the clock back to pre-Betty Friedan America, lampooning four bored, frustrated, white upper-middle-class ladies who lunch." Betty Friedan was a well-known advocate of women’s rights and author of the "Feminine Mystique," the feminists' bible in the United States.

Blog entries on the perceived racial slurs are not limited to Filipino sites. On ABC News Discussions, this blog entry was found: "I have just received an e-mail petition being circulated among the Filipino communities. Subject of the petition is an alleged racial slur that was mentioned in the 9/30 episode of Desperate Housewives -- Teri Hatcher wanting to ensure that the diploma of the medical doctor examining her was not from the Philippines. Was this funny to you?"

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA), for its part, is set to raise the issue to the US Federal Communications Commission and the World Medical Association to ask for a rectification of what it considered "demeaning" comments.

Dr. Bu Castro, PMA spokesperson, said in an interview that the group met on Wednesday and decided on top of a complaint to the television network which aired the show and its producers to bring the matter to the government regulators.

"The comments were totally outrageous. We are sending a complaint to ask that the same be rectified because it is demeaning to the character and dignity of Filipino doctors," said Castro.

The USFCC, which was established by the Communications Act of 1934, is an independent government agency charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.

ABC's apology

On Thursday, the producers of the hit TV series “Desperate Housewives” issued an apology for an insulting line that belittled the practitioners of the medical profession in the Philippines.

“The producers of Desperate Housewives and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the insulting remark in the season premier,” ABC Network said in a short statement of apology obtained by ABS-CBN North America News Bureau.

ABC Network added: “There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines.”

The network’s apology came after the Filipino community, particularly Filipino health workers, in the US and doctors in the Philippines deplored the insulting line uttered by actress Teri Hatcher’s character, Susan Mayer in the show’s Season 4 premier, which was aired on Sunday.

A Desperate Joke

We don't exactly know why ABC would throw such a desperate joke on a race that is serving the U.S. wholeheartedly.

Maybe the joke was aimed at last year's Philippine Nursing Board scandal but this is not a reason to defame the race as a whole. Sure, one, two, three or even a dozen would make a mistake by cheating on a critical test, however, not everyone nor the majority makes the terrible offense. Filipino nurses and medical doctors maintain their dignity as able, and reliable medical practitioners, evidenced by their dedication in work, and excellent performance. If not, they have been banned long ago. Can someone in ABC understand as simple as this? Perhaps ratings is far more important to them than anything else that they would go as far as insulting races. Well sure, desperate housewives had gained a lot of fans, now all they need are protesters.

ABC deserves the need to do their homework before presenting something on stage. If offending someone is a joke, might as well open a TV series, entitled "Desperate Network", in which you could find a scene with a remark "OK, before we go any further, can I check those diplomas? I just want to make sure they are not from ABC."

Maybe this should enable them to tell how their medicine tastes like.

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