Friday, August 14, 2009
Weeds: Of WASPS and Mexicans
The latest season of Weeds is bothering me. It has certainly come a long way from its original premise: Nancy, a very white soccer-mom (I mean she's at a soccer game in the very first episode) sells weed in her community so that she can maintain her suburban lifestyle after her husband dies. But she makes no pretense of being a soccer-mom now.
Weeds is essentially a show about white people. It critiques all the details that affect white people, including their relationships with people who are not white. I must say that this show is specifically about white people in California, who are very different from white people elsewhere in the U.S. I think a lot of the critique is clever; I like that Nancy's suburban home was a McMansion, falling apart at the seams despite its high value. It used to be a comedy, now it has turned very dark.
I realized early on that the audience isn't supposed to think any of the main characters are good people. It isn't about being good. If you like Nancy Botwin it's only because you think you're supposed to like her, because she's the hero. But she's not a good mom, she's not a good neighbor, though when she does sometimes try to be a good person, I do feel sorry for her when it all goes wrong.
I thought that was an important aspect of the show. A major theme is Nancy's struggle to be both a drug dealer and a decent person. In the first episode she roughs up a teenager for selling drugs to little kids, as if she's better than that. By now, the body count directly attributable to her actions is in the double digits. You can't be involved in the drug trade and come out with a clean soul. You just can't- and the show is very realistic about this. I have very strong opinions on this too, which I explain here. Basically I feel if you wear American Apparel because you want to know your t-shirt wasn't made in a sweatshop, then you better know that your weed doesn't have blood all over it, because that's way worse than sweat.
If none of the white people on the show are good people, then what are we supposed to think when they make racist comments about minorities on the show?
Is it supposed to be funny when Doug tells an Asian woman she eats dog after she calls him an asshore? He's just a stoner loser anyway... right? So ... are we supposed to think he's just a stoner loser and a racist?And is his racism part of why we should think his character is funny? I really don't know what the writers want from me- but I don't think he's that funny.
When Celia asks Nancy if she picked her Mexican body guard up at the Home Depot- are we supposed to think that's funny too? Or are we supposed to think Celia is a racist person for saying it? Or both? Is it funny because the joke is really on Celia as her white life has already crumbled to pieces?
The show makes use of many racial stereotypes as punchlines. Do the writers think they can get away with this because they are also making fun of white culture at the same time? Are we supposed to see the racism of Nancy and Celia and Doug as part of why they are not decent people? We should laugh about how racist and obnoxious they all are and feel good because we aren't that way?
There are no more black people on the show. There used to be three black characters from whom Nancy bought her weed. In this new season, the black characters from LA don't make it to Renmar. But there are a lot of new Mexican characters- and everyone of them is a stereotype. The corrupt politician, the pandillero, the dirty Mexican - what?!? Yes, there is an entire episode called Su-su-sucio with a character named Sucio who does-not-take-baths.
What is this? Are the show's writers laughing at white people for having such ideas about Mexicans? But it's just really not that clear or funny, having a character who is literally a dirty Mexican for no apparent reason. White characters constantly speak terrible, slow Spanish because, naturally, few of the Mexicans speak English. There are constant jokes about the water, the Mexican characters are seen as a corrupting force for Nancy's son, everytime Nancy goes to Tijuana she's in danger of being killed- by Mexicans.
What is Weeds trying to say about Mexico? I get what it's trying to say about white culture, but I don't feel like they've given us a fair view of Mexican culture- only men with guns that can't speak English or take baths.
* My husband rightly pointed out to me that my title is all wrong. The Botwins aren´t WASPS (White Anglo Saxon Protestants), as they are Jewish and live in SoCal, not Connecticut. But I´ll leave it as is because it´s already indexed in Google that way.
Drugs are a Human Rights Violation Part I
Post Secret: Drug Abuse