Tuesday, March 07, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

A new animated series will be running on the Cartoon Network Sunday nights, starting March 19. Called "Minoriteam," the show is about a group of superheroes whose powers are exaggerated "minority" racial and ethnic stereotypes. They fight against an all-white clan of supervillians, who also are embued with racial stereotypes.

The heroes:
Non-Stop, a Middle-Eastern convenience-store owner who is immune to all forms of live ammunition.
El Jefe, a Mexican that fights crime with a leaf blower and cannot speak English.
Dr. Wang, an Asian Human Calculator and the leader of the Minoriteam.
Fasto, an African-American man who is known as "the fastest man that ever was."
Jewcano, a man with the powers of the Jewish Faith and a Volcano.

The villians:
The White Shadow, leader of the clan of supervillians, with a head/helmet in the shape of the Illuminati Pyramid.
The Head of the Cheerleading Squad, who is always snooty and impossible to please.
The Corporate Ladder, a ladder with a stool at the top who is impossible to scale/climb.
The Standardized Test, a man with an eraser on his head.

If the program shows how ridiculous the stereotypes in question are, well, that could be something. Even still, it would risk failing in the same way the classic sitcom "All In the Family" did back in the 1970's.

Back then, the producer, Norman Lear, and the star, Caroll O'Connor, wanted to use Archie Bunker's general ignorance as a way to spoof the racist cracks he regularly spouted. The idea was to show that only uneducated cretins believed the kind of stuff Archie believed.

The problem was that way too many Americans didn't get the joke. Rather than laughing at Archie, they found themselves laughing with him. Put another way, nobody ever went broke underestimating the sophistication of the American people. "All In the Family" was a huge hit right out the box, but after a few seasons Lear began phasing out the racism in Archie's character, realizing that he was just adding to the problem rather than helping solve it.

Here's hoping "Minoriteam" doesn't duplicate that unfortunate side effect.

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