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The Filipino slur heard round the world and how producers can make amends

02:45 PM December 29, 2013

Some movies never make it out of the states. But a bon-a-fide holiday film like “Anchorman 2” is eyeing foreign box offices to help keep pace with the $50 million it made its first five days ($13.4 million of that in international markets).

AP reported last week: “‘Anchorman’ will have a much larger footprint internationally than the last ‘Anchorman’ did,” said Don Harris, head of domestic distribution for Paramount. “Will Ferrell has done a really good job of turning this character into something that travels around the world.”

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Oh, yeah,  I guess that means racism too.

All of it is bad news for all the far-flung Filipinos working around the world.

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There’s nothing like a big popular movie that contains an anti-Filipino slur to make life miserable.

If you suddenly see a rise in dog-eater jokes, now you know why.  There’s one in “Anchorman 2.” And considering how the movie can become a quote machine for  pop culture, one joke is surely enough.

Am I over-reacting?

True, the movie is pure silliness. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s no big deal. Racism is a form of ignorance. And that’s much different from the kind of put-on silliness and stupidity that is the bread and butter of Anchorman 2.

The producers’ saying, “just joking” or “we’re just being dumb and stupid,” just doesn’t cut it.

And I was looking forward to the movie, too. I paid my hard-earned cash, went willingly to the theatre, and sat through all of it (nearly two hours).

Indeed, as a former local TV anchorman in Washington, D.C. in the 90’s, who knows all about banter with weather gals hairstyles, pancake make-up, and sitting on phone books to achieve “elevation,” I was prepared for it all.

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I even relished how the “team” celebrated their success by getting perms!

But in the first 15 minutes, there was that one jab that crossed the line.

And it was a pure throwaway.

Ron Burgundy is driving his van and says: “Only Olympic sport Filipinos are good at is eating cats and dogs.”

I was so irate by the line that I tried desperately to find a pen and scribble in the dark; I believe that’s the line verbatim.

As a Filipino American, my sensitivity levels on jokes about Filipinos are pretty high. I just had an exchange with a relative in Tacloban in the Philippines about how people there didn’t have enough to eat. And how cemetaries were uprooted and dogs were chewing on the remains.

The dogs weren’t being eaten by the starving typhoon victims.

Of course, the movie was made before the typhoon occurred. But did they really need that line?

There are enough genuinely stupid race-free laughs in the movie; it wasn’t necessary to update the already lame stereotype of Filipino dog eaters.

It’s certainly one thing for a Filipino to joke about it. There are places in the Philippines where dog is eaten. But to make it a stereotype is like making a joke about watermelon eating blacks. Or blacks with fried chicken.

It’ s not funny. To recycle the slur in a movie for a general audience is just plain racist, no matter how they update dog-eating  by adding cats to the menu.

And they made it an Olympic sport too. The Winter Games?  So that would mean dog and cat, flash frozen, not fresh?

For those who think who still think there’s no big deal, how would you like it if the only time you hear “Filipino” mentioned in global pop culture is as a punch line?

Bad enough to be generally excluded from mainstream pop culture.

The Filipino joke wasn’t the only ethnic joke in “Anchorman 2.”

Burgundy (Will Ferrell) jokes about being Mexican a few times. But there, the joke’s on him. There was another joke about the news staff proposing a Chinese story. Burgundy hums a typical Asian ditty that’s usually accompanied by a gong, and then rejects the story. There again, Burgundy is the target. Perfect for humor of the stupid.

But the Filipino dog-eating joke? When you laugh, you’re not laughing at Burgundy. The target is Filipinos.

Blacks, at least, were real participants in the movie. They were given their own lines to expose the stupidity of the Burgundian ebonics, the soul brother jive Burgundy brings to the dinner table of his African American girlfriend.

The interracial love between Ron and the black news exec is actually kind of funny. When you make love and don’t see fireworks, but instead see images of Jackie Robinson and Gary Coleman and the cast of Diff’rent Strokes, well, I admit that’s funny.

Once again, blacks were in on that joke, though even this area may make some people, especially whites like actual anchorwoman Megyn Kelly, a bit uncomfortable.

After all, she still thinks Santa, Jesus, and news execs are all whites.

The Filipino joke? It would have been nice to have a Filipino guy in a cameo to let Ron know it wasn’t cool. And coming from San Diego, known for a large Filipino American community in National City, the real fake Ron Burgundy should have known better.

I stayed to the end, and even liked the surprise finish. Not the phony battle royal of news teams, but the movie’s sendup of bogus news, such as car chases and corporate conflicts.

The movie needed more of that–satire that really hits the mark. Instead, it relies too much on the silly and stupid, making for fewer hits, more misses, and that racist clunker about Filipinos.

Now, I’m not offended to the point of boycotting the whole thing. There are other movies you can choose to pay to see.  But on the Howard Stern show, co-star Steve Carell said if the movie made money (and really, is there any doubt of that?), the cast and crew would all get together and have a big party concert with Seals and Croft or Hall and Oates. (The movie does use music to transport people back in time).

I’d suggest they do one more thing.

Make a donation to one of the charities, like Catholic Relief Services, that is continuing to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Central Philippines.

It would be a perfect Ron Burgundy moment, live from Tacloban, or in the studio with a green screen and a big cardboard check.

Such a small penance for an ill-advised dog-eating joke.

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TAGS: “Anchorman 2”, Features, Global Nation, Racism
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