HOLLYWOOD CAN’T HELP ITSELF …
We’ve watched NBC’s new White House-based comedy 1600 Penn a few times and it’s marginally funny. It’s also got hottie Jenna Elfman (and her insanely sleek body) going for it, so there’s that …
But as much as we’d love to lust over Elfman’s luscious limbs for a few seconds of screen time every Thursday evening, we won’t be watching 1600 Penn again.
Why not? Well, for starters the show is only funny because it’s got a funny fat kid in it. And once the funny fat kid schtick gets old, well … the sit-com falls apart, and has to start reaching for laughs via other, more convenient means.
For example, 1600 Penn became the latest television show to lampoon Southerners – and specifically residents of North and South Carolina – when Stacy Keach guest-starred as a wheelchair-bound U.S. Senator named Strom Thoroughgood (R-N.C.). A caricature meant to evoke the late segregationist Strom Thurmond, Thoroughgood is a corrupt, racist, anti-Semitic lawmaker who is hell bent on blocking a massive increase in funding for our nation’s failed government-run school system.
Unless his state gets some pork barrel spending, of course …
Beyond the underlying (and demonstrably false) implication that bigger government makes for better schools, 1600 Penn didn’t delve into specific education policy – and why should it have? It’s a comedy about a fat kid for crying out loud.
What it did delve into (and extensively reinforce) was the tired old stereotype that Southerners are nothing but a bunch of spiteful intolerants who are in turn led by a bunch of spiteful intolerants – particularly those of us residing here in the Carolinas. And particularly those of us who dare to question left-of-center policies embraced by Hollywood’s chosen one - U.S. President Barack Obama.
As if Thoroughgood wasn’t enough to reinforce the “All Southerners Are Backward” stereotype, 1600 Penn‘s producers offered up his wife “Bunny” – a dim-witted former debutante who capably advanced her own ditzy brand of intolerance toward single, unwed mothers.
Look, we’re not going to deny the existence of racism (and a lot of other – isms) in this “neck of the woods” – even amongst our elected officials - but the last time we checked South Carolina’s Indian-American governor had just appointed an African-American to the U.S. Senate.
In fact he’s the only African-American currently serving in the Senate.
Can a racist state do that?
Of course not … and while this website has been harshly critical of both Nikki Haley and Tim Scott on policy issues (and with good reason), the fact remains their ascension to these prominent posts is a rebuke of the Hollywood stereotype being advanced by 1600 Penn.
A lot of Carolinas’ residents are racist. Sure. But a lot more of them aren’t – making these stereotypes as antiquated as the racism 1600 Penn‘s producers are seeking to pin on us.
Having said that, we’re sure we could find a few folks in Oconee County willing to give 1600 Penn producer Josh Gad a proper Ned Beatty-style welcome in the event he decides to pay the Palmetto State a visit.